Elusive snake now back on display at Bronx Zoo

Bronx Zoo's Egyptian cobra was found alive and well in Reptile House in non-public area on Thursday, March 31, 2011 after spending several days missing. (Julie Maher/Wildlife Conservation Society)

April 9, 2011 5:25:01 PM PDT
New York has an unlikely new celebrity: a slithering snake.

The venomous Egyptian cobra that went missing from the Bronx Zoo two weeks ago was back on display Saturday, giving the public its first look at the serpent since it was found a week ago in a dark corner of the reptile house.

The tale of the missing cobra has captivated the masses, and the 24-inch, 3-ounce star drew an endless lineup of visitors to her glass cage.

The elusive snake now has a name, thanks to a contest by the zoo and the New York Daily News. Nearly 60,000 people voted on five final choices, with Mia (for "Missing in action") beating out "Cleopatra" and "Amaunet," an ancient Egyptian goddess whose name means "the female hidden one."

It also has fans wearing pins and "Free the Snake" T-shirts.

And someone pretending to be the snake on Twitter has more than 200,000 followers. The writer had imagined a glamorous life for the snake during its week on the lam; Mia visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art and snacked on Magnolia cupcakes.

Sara Calderon, 9, wanted to name the snake "Cupcake!"

"She's big and pretty," said the girl, beaming after viewing the fork-tongued cobra. Her 7-year-old cousin, Zoe Carter, offered: "She looks like a baby, a cute skinny baby."

The brownish cobra is one of the most lethal reptiles on earth; its poison can kill a human being in just minutes.

Truth was, lying quietly on sand in her glass tank, Mia didn't quite match her worldwide hype. But that didn't keep a horde of adults and children from showing up to see her on a brilliantly sunny spring day in the Bronx.

"I'm disappointed there's not a Twitter terminal next to the cage," said John Cullen, who brought his 2-year-old son, Thomas.

"I'd be interested to know what the snake thinks of all this."

Cullen, a pet products marketing executive from the Bronx, said he "absolutely loved" how the zoo used the snake story to promote a world-class organization renowned for its scientific research.

The story "was real, and the zoo really capitalized on it," said Cullen, who's following Mia's supposed shenanigans on Twitter.

Sara's aunt, Jeanmarie Myszak, said the story was "truly hyped" but acknowledged, "it's a good story to follow."

Two-year-old Delaney Santiago was just plain fascinated by the creature itself.

"She's kinda curly, gross and moving," said Delaney from her stroller, twirling her finger to illustrate.

To Cullen's wife, Nancy, Mia was beyond gross.

"I got a bit of a panic attack inside," she said, adding, "I'm afraid of snakes. I took pictures and then ran out!"

Online: BronxZoo.com