Sheba the first King Cobra in South Africa

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Sheba the first King Cobra in South Africa

Back in 1982, while I was curator of Transvaal Snake Park, we imported the first King Cobra into South Africa. I cannot remember what we paid but the supplier was Steve Krzystyniak, better known as Gumby Roachclip at the time. He later moved to South Africa and worked at FitzSimons Snake Park in Durban.

It was a beautiful specimen and I am not even going to guess her length, but Sheba paid her way within days with publicity. More than we could ever hope for and people queued up to see her. We made the eight o clock news when we unpacked her and the front page of the Sunday Times. The headline was The King has arrived! A few weeks later we made the Sunday Times again when we informed them that it was in fact a female. This time the headline read The King is a Queen!

Getting Sheba to feed was no easy task and initially we had to force feed her. She started taking Mole Snakes and we would stitch a few rats onto the end of a piece of Mole Snake to get enough food down her.

I have no idea how long she lived but it was many years. I do know that the late Dennis Groves made a fibreglass mould of Sheba but have no idea where that mould is now.

If you do not recognise me in the photograph, I had a lot of hair in those days – on my head and on my face.