The king cobra drew itself up and spread its hood, ready to defend its home. The skink from the Solomon Islands ducked back into its hollowed-out branch. The 50-year-old Aldabra tortoise did its best to scurry away, preferring to flee rather than fight or hide.
The reptiles and amphibians in the Herpetarium at the St. Louis Zoo are unaccustomed to visitors. They have spent the past six months living relatively undisturbed while the house was closed for renovation. All that will change when it reopens at 10 a.m. Friday.
"The animals aren't used to visitors right now, but it will be busy again come Friday," said Ron Goellner, general curator. "This has always been one of the most popular exhibits. We get the people who like snakes, but we also get the people who don't like snakes but will look at them up close, behind the glass."
This weekend, from Friday through Sunday, reptiles and amphibians from the Children's Zoo will be at the Herpetarium. Zoo docents will be available to answer questions. Also, visitors may have a photo taken with a python from 1 to 2 p.m. each day for $3. Other special events are planned.
The aforementioned king cobra is new, the first exhibited at the Zoo in 15 years. The snake, a female, is about 2 years old and about 6 feet long. It will grow to about 14 feet. Cobras are the largest of venomous snakes.
Among other new exhibits in the Herpetarium are six young frilled lizards, native to Australia. When threatened, the lizard raises a round collar of skin around its neck, stands upright and runs toward its predator. …