Mpumalanga reptile park snake suffers spinal column break

A large cobra at a Hazyview reptile park recently had to be euthanised after it suffered a broken spinal column.

It was a sad day indeed for Perry’s Bridge Reptile Park in Hazyview when the staff found its central African forest cobra with a broken spinal column recently.

The reptile park’s owner, Jason Stewart, said he and his staff are unsure how the snake had broken its spinal column while it was in its large enclosure.

He said the snake was 2.4m in length and had been on display at the park for about five years. He said they had leased the reptile from Chris Hobkirk, a well-known snake handler and director of Lowveld Venom Suppliers.

The swollen area where the cobra had broken its spinal column. Photo: Jason Stewart.

“The break happened a third of the way down from his head. We have no idea what happened. He has been in his enclosure for years now. A break in the spinal column does not happen often at all in snakes.

“It is a very unfortunate tragedy. I saw there might be something wrong last Tuesday evening, August 22, but I thought if I gave him a few days, he would be OK.

“On Thursday, I saw he wasn’t moving from his spot. I saw there was an area that was swollen on his body, and he wasn’t able to slither around the enclosure, but he was still able to move and had feeling in his tail when we touched it.”

Stewart said he took the cobra to the vet in Hazyview on Thursday, August 24 where an X-ray was done and the broken spinal column was found. He said there was nothing that could be done for him, and he had to be euthanised.

X-tray showing a snake with a broken spinal column
The X-ray shows the break in the cobra’s spinal column.

“He was a beautiful snake, and the people who visited the park would comment on him often. He was a very good feeder, and whenever
the staff went in to clean his enclosure, he would pick his head up and just watch them, but he never went for them.”

The park also posted a tribute to the cobra on its Facebook page. Hobkirk said he had had the snake for 10 years, and that he was sad to learn of the spinal break and its subsequent euthanasia.

“He was beautiful and had very different colours to the ones you find here on the eastern shores in KwaZulu-Natal. He was pitch black from his nose right down to his tail, and had these wonderful markings under his head. He was very intelligent and extremely powerful,” he said.


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