'Houdini' back on display

By Drum Digital
23 April 2013

The Pretoria Zoo's elusive black mamba, nicknamed Houdini, was returned to its public display terrarium on Tuesday.

The snake had not been on view since its re-capture around three weeks ago, spokesman Craig Allenby said.

"It's the first time we are placing Houdini back on display. We have kept him off the exhibit," he said.

"He had gone missing from the national zoo for a month. We have placed him back [in the terrarium] so that the public can come and see him again."

Allenby said the black mamba was one of the deadliest snakes in the country.

During the period when Houdini was loose, a risk assessment by experts indicated that the snake did not pose a major threat to guests at the zoo.

"We found that the area was still safe for our visitors. We were of the opinion that the snake would be territorial and would remain its area," he said.

Allenby said a lot of people had visited the zoo while Houdini was missing, driven by curiosity.

"They were actually hoping to spot the elusive Houdini. We had a lot of support from the general public during that very difficult time," he said.

An extensive search was launched when the snake went missing from its enclosure on March 11. There were suggestions it might have been stolen.

However, it was re-captured on April 7 behind the reptile park, in an area which only staff could access.

External experts had been brought in to try and find out how Houdini escaped.

"They have made to us some recommendations on how we can change our standard operating procedures to prevent a recurrence," Allenby said.

"We are also looking at bringing in new technology to prevent an escape in the future."

A forlorn-looking Houdini gazed through the glass of the terrarium on Tuesday as dozens of cameras clicked away.

His black forked tongue darted constantly in and out of its mouth while he explored his surroundings.

A white poster had been put up in a corner of the terrarium. It showed the bold inscription "Houdini" and the word "wanted" cancelled out and replaced with the word "found".

Anxious school pupils touring the zoo's reptile park lined up at Houdini's enclosure to observe the now famous reptile.

-Sapa

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