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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Cargo jet stowaway identified as cousin to king cobra

By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer

When State Agriculture Inspector Roy Oda reached into the gap in the flooring of the Philippine Airlines cargo jet Saturday to pick up the snake, he thought it was dead.

Domingo Cravalho of the Department of Agriculture studies the monocle cobra that arrived from Manila.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

"I grabbed its head, and the thing stick his tongue at me," Oda said yesterday. "I said, 'Oh, that snake is very much alive.'"

He tossed it into his snake bag.

Monday, Oda learned the serpent he grabbed barehanded was identified as a venomous monocle cobra, the first cobra ever caught here.

The 30-inch snake met the press yesterday, lolling half out of a dish of water where it was rehydrating after its flight from Manila.

It looked like the Guam brown tree snake Oda thought it was.

Aroused, the deadly monocle cobra flares its hood like snakes that rise from baskets in movies.

It is a smaller cousin to the king cobra, the world's longest poisonous snake, which averages 12 feet in length.

"It was a real wake-up call for us," said Myron Isherwood, plant quarantine manager.

He wants to make long snake tongs and Kevlar gloves standard issue from now on.

Oda didn't how dangerous a bite may have been. There is no anti-venom serum in Hawai'i, Isherwood said, "because we have no snakes."

The snake may go to the Mainland for precise identification, which is tricky: You have to count the scales on its belly.