King brown snake milking record broken
STAFF AT THE Australian Reptile Park on the NSW Central Coast have beaten their personal best on a rather unusual metric – extracting the most processed venom from a single yield from a king brown (or mulga) snake.
The snake responsible for the record milking is called Chewie “because he has one big bite,” said the Park’s Head of Reptiles, Billy Collett.
“The existing record of freeze dried venom from Australian Reptile Park’s king brown milking program was 1.3g, yet we were able to extract over 1.5g of venom from Chewie,” Billy said.
“Chewie has smashed the average.” The extracted, processed venom will be used in the production of life-saving anti-venom for all black snake species, including the red-bellied black snake. (Image: Australian Reptile Park)
Chewie is 12 years old and over 2.5m long. Despite the name, king browns are not in fact part of the brown snake family, but belong to the black snake family – therefore, the snake’s venom can be used to produce anti-venom for all black snake species, including the red-bellied black snake.
“King browns are not the most toxic snake, but what they lack in toxicity, they make up for in sheer volume which can make its bite fatal,” explained Billy.
“When comparing deadly snake venom yields, the average tiger snake may produce around 0.3g of processed venom when milked, yet a king brown snake commonly delivers 0.8g on average in one bite. Chewie has smashed the average,” he said.
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Tim Faulkner, General Manager of the Australian Reptile Park and 2015 Australian Geographic Conservationist of the Year, said the Park’s venom keepers have one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, “requiring confidence, nerves of steel and a lot of experience”.
“The process requires Australian Reptile Park keepers to secure the 2.5m-long deadly snake, sink its fangs into a large shot glass covered with plastic and deliver its lethal bite. It is then freeze dried, removed of all moisture, sorted and delivered to produce anti-venom,” he said.
Chewie will be on show during the April school holidays at Australian Reptile Park’s Deadly and Dangerous demonstration, held daily at 1pm in the show pit. For more details see www.reptilepark.com.au.
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