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Rare Venomous Snakes Mark the Chinese New Year at Nature Museum

By Paul Biasco | February 8, 2013 8:21am

LINCOLN PARK — The Year of the Snake is lurking just days away, and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is celebrating by bringing in a special display of venomous snakes, including one of the rarest King Cobras in the world.

"It's not very often through one of the years that you can get live representation," said Soo Lon Moy, board president of the Chinese-American Museum of Chicago. "I think it's really fabulous."

The Lincoln Park nature museum has teamed up with wildlife experts and the Chinese-American Museum of Chicago for a weekend of events to honor the Chinese culture and ring in the Chinese New Year.

Venomous snakes on display include Timber Rattlesnake, Cottonmouth, Southern Copperhead, Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, Eyelash Vipers, Gaboon Viper and a Chinese Banded King Cobra.

The Chinese Banded King Cobra is believed to be the only one of its species in captivity in North America, and is extremely rare even in its native China, according to Celeste Troon, the museum's director of living collections.

"It's fantastic. You just don't get the opportunity to see a snake like this," she said.

The venomous snakes were provided by the Wildlife Discovery Center in Lake Forest, which took in the Chinese Banded King Cobra from a small zoo in Texas a few years back when the snake was on its death bed.

"She was just as sick as any snake I've ever seen," said Rob Carmichael, curator of the Wildlife Discovery Center. He said it took eight months of intensive rehabilitation to get the snake healthy again.

Lon Moy explained the significance of the Chinese New Year to a group of children at the museum Thursday and even touched a snake herself. She said those born in the year of the snake are thought to be smart, quiet and reserved, but are often vain.

"They like to look pretty," she said.

On Saturday, Lion Dance Master P.C. Leung will make his way through the Nature Museum when he performs the dance at 11 a.m., to help spread the Chinese culture outside of Chinatown.

"It gives us a chance to get out to different places and introduce the Chinese culture to the general public," Lon Moy said.

As part of the partnership between the Nature Museum and the Chinese-American Museum, the snake exhibit will head to Chinatown on Friday before returning to the Nature Museum on Saturday.