Workers get lie detector tests in snake case

August 11, 2008 5:53:55 PM PDT
A venomous snake is missing again from Moody Gardens in Galveston -- but this time, some wonder if the bush viper will ever be found. The snake got out of its enclosure earlier this month and was found in the ceiling. Then on Friday we learned the snake was gone again, but this time something was different.

The exhibit where the venomous African bush viper lived is now empty. The five other snakes who were housed in the exhibit are now locked securely away where the public can't see them, just in case.

Moody Gardens manager Greg Whittaker says the snake, which is only about 10 to 12 inches long, is not an aggressive species unless harassed. He says the reptile is very predictable in its daily routine and mostly keeps to itself.

"They spend their time camouflaged in trees," Whittaker explained. "We feed them once every week or every two weeks, depending on the time of the year."

That's why he can't understand how the snake could get out not just once, but twice.

Detective Michelle Sollenberger with the Galveston Police Department said, "In my opinion and the opinion of most of the staff members out there, is that there's just not really any way that it could have gotten out of the cage on its own without some assistance."

After the first escape, the snake was found a day later in the ceiling above its cage. Managers tightened security and reinforced the locks. This time around they say looks like someone broke in. Detective Sollenberger plans to give employees who had direct contact with the snake lie detector tests, in hopes of getting to the bottom of this.

The rainforest pyramid remains open, with Moody Gardens staff working around the clock to ensure its guests are protected.

'We go through the ceiling panels, we go through the exhibitry, we go through the lobby planters just to make sure that we don't have a snake here someplace in public," Whittaker said.

Detective Sollenberger told Eyewitness News it's not all that unusual for animals to go missing from places like this. In fact, about five years ago at Moody Gardens, about a dozen turtles vanished, and it turned out an employee was behind that incident.

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