Thiruvananthapuram zoo keeper found dead in king cobra’s enclosure

Famous snake handler Vava Suresh said it appeared to be an accidental bite but stressed that a clear picture will emerge only after examining the CCTV visuals
Harshad, the zoo keeper who was reportedly bitten by a king cobra on Thursday, locked himself up in a cobra enclosure in 2017 to protest the delay in changing his employment status to a permanent employee.
Harshad, the zoo keeper who was reportedly bitten by a king cobra on Thursday, locked himself up in a cobra enclosure in 2017 to protest the delay in changing his employment status to a permanent employee.
Published on Jul 02, 2021 12:52 AM IST
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Thiruvananthapuram: A 46-year-old cleaner at the Thiruvananthapuram zoo died on Thursday after he was reportedly bitten by a king cobra, people familiar with the matter said. The zoo authorities have announced a probe into the death.

P Harshad was found lying near the enclosure and was rushed to hospital where he died later.

The zoo has three king cobras. Two of them were in an enclosure and the third, in a separate one, a zoo official said on condition of anonymity. It is the third snake that is believed to have bitten Harshad.

Harshad had moved the snake to a smaller cage while cleaning the main enclosure. When he went back to the smaller cage, he noticed it was dirty and proceeded to clean it without shifting the serpent back and was bitten, news agency PTI said, quoting the police.

Harshad initially used to work with a circus but was accommodated at the zoo after the government strictly barred use of wild animals by circuses. He was taken on the zoo’s rolls as a permanent employee in 2019, two years after he locked himself in the cobra’s enclosure to protest the delay in hiring him as a permanent employee, his colleague said on condition of anonymity.

Another colleague said two workers used to be deployed for cleaning the enclosures earlier but due to the lockdown, only one person was around. As a result, no one really saw what happened and it took time to get him help.

King cobras are the longest of all venomous snakes. Their venom is not the most potent but the amount of neurotoxin they can deliver in a single bite can kill upto 20 people.

Wildlife experts said king cobra bites are rare and they usually prey on other snakes, especially rat snakes and lizards.

“King cobra is very gentle among snakes and it bites only after grave provocation. Even after provocation it gives enough warning by hissing repeatedly,” said famous snake handler Vava Suresh who is credited with having rescued over 200 king cobras and often calls snakes the most misunderstood creatures in the world.

“It seems to be an accidental bite. A clear picture will emerge only after examining CCTV visuals,” said Vava Suresh.

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Sunday, October 17, 2021