Missing Bronx zoo cobra sparks Twitter following

NEW YORK Thu Mar 31, 2011 12:40am IST

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Any old cobra can hiss, but the one that tweets on Wednesday had more than 150,000 people following Twitter posts about her escape from New York City's Bronx Zoo, including top politicians and celebrities.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg responded to a Twitter message from @BronxZoosCobra, which was posted by somebody tweeting as the poisonous Egyptian cobra that went missing from the zoo's Reptile House last weekend.

"Today President Obama and I toured NYC's Museum of Natural History. We saw a 94-foot (29-meter) whale, but not @BronxZoosCobra," Bloomberg wrote in a Twitter post on Tuesday.

Talk show host Ellen Degeneres suggested the cobra visit the city's architecturally distinctive Guggenheim Museum.

"They have a great Kandinsky exhibit," she wrote in a Twitter post addressed to the roving reptile. "They also don't have any stairs."

The zoo director says he is confident the cobra was still hidden among the pumps and motors of the reptile enclosure.

The snake's tweets have complied with the social networking site's limit of 140-characters per blast, which have provided sibilant updates of its slither through the city's best-known tourist attractions.

"Getting on the ferry to Ellis Island. Let's hope this goes better than that time on the plane," ran an update posted Wednesday morning.

"Checking Google maps. RT @sesamestreet The @bronxzooscobra is visiting places around NYC. Can anyone tell it how to get to Sesame Street?" said another update in a reference to the popular children's television program.

Obviously tuned in to the city's trendiest spots, the snake claimed to start its day like Manhattan's hippest residents, lining up at an orange van typically parked in the East Village.

"Getting my morning coffee at the Mudtruck. Don't even talk to me until I've had my morning coffee. Seriously, don't. I'm venomous," the message said.

The Twitter account first surfaced on Monday, with 30,000 followers by midday Tuesday, jumping to 153,450 followers by early afternoon Wednesday.

The exponential growth of BronxZoosCobra far outstripped the official Bronx Zoo Twitter account, which had a relatively modest 4,000 or so followers.

Copycat Twitter feeds have begun to appear, including @BronxZookeeper, allegedly the snake's disgruntled handler, who began posting on Tuesday and by midday on Wednesday had more than 7,000 followers.

The creator of the BronxZoosCobra account is unknown, and refuses to respond to reporters' e-mailed inquiries in anything other than the guise of an English-speaking snake with a touch-screen iPhone.

The Bronx Zoo says it may take days or even weeks to find the cobra, and it is banking on her eventually getting hungry or thirsty enough to venture out from her hiding place.

Meanwhile, the surrounding neighborhood in the Bronx was alternatively thrilled and terrified by the snake's vanishing act. Fordham University's college radio station WFUV played back-to-back snake-themed rock songs and a dog walker said he was keeping a tight leash on his bite-sized Shih-Zhu.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Jerry Norton and Paul Simao)

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