Staring into the eyes of a king cobra was required, so Florida lab took drastic steps


King cobras are highly venomous, so it’s nothing short of suicidal to sit inches from one’s face, staring into its eyes.

Yet that’s what was required when a 10-foot long cobra ended up blindfolded by its shedding skin, according to reptile experts in Northeast Florida.

The large snake lives at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park, and a risky mission to uncover its eyes was mounted by the University of Florida’s College of Zoological Medicine, according to a Nov. 22 Facebook post.

“Snakes don’t blink, but instead have spectacles or eye caps that cover their eyes and they shed them when they shed their skin,” the college reported.

“Sometimes those caps can get stuck and that is exactly what happened with the 10+ ft King cobra at St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park!”

So how do you get a cobra to sit still while you pick at its eyes?

You apparently can’t.

That’s why the experts resorted to trapping the snake in a tube “with small holes cut out on either side to allow access to the eyes.”

Veterinarian Christian Capobianco from UF Zoological Medicine and park reptile curator Lauren Gruny handled the procedure, which involved slowly soaking and removing the eye caps with tweezers.

Details of how the snake handled being poked in the eye were not provided, but photos show it was immobile and alert during the procedure.

Capobianco shared the photos on Facebook, noting: “Have I mentioned that I have the coolest job.”

St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park has long had king cobras as part of its reptile collection, and has worked to encourage mating.

King cobras are native to India and southeast Asia and can reach 18 feet (average is more like 10 to 12 feet), according to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Institute. The species is “very dangerous,” but is known to attack only when provoked or cornered, experts say.

Their vision is incredible, allowing them to “see a moving person almost 330 feet (100 meters) away,” and their hiss is “more like a dog’s growl,” the institute says.

King cobras are also cannibals, which makes mating “a very intense time,” according to St. Augustine Alligator Farm.

“King Cobras are snake eaters, and if everything doesn’t go just right the male may eat our female,” the park says.

St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park is about 40 miles south of Jacksonville.

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