We took Max (now 18) and Mason (13) to Reptile World Serpentarium in St. Cloud and, man oh man, did we get an education we weren’t expecting!
The absolute best part of the visit was the “venom show.” While herpetologist George Van Horn was giving an impressive presentation, we had no idea we were in the midst of a celebrity in the herpetology world! We only learned that later, after reading a placard near a snake cage, that explained he’d been bitten six times by a similar snake.
Here are some interesting factoids we learned:
Snakebite treatment at the hospital can run $100K-$200K, depending on how much anti-venom you need.
Coral snake anti-venom can run $7200 per dose + the hospital’s expenses, pushing it to $32K. You may need numerous doses. Ouch!!
There are two types of anti-venom. One is for coral snake bites. The other is a mixture of other venoms, and works for other snake bites in a particular region.
If you are bitten by a poisonous snake, and can get to the hospital in time, your chances of survival are excellent because most hospitals keep anti-venom in stock. People who die from snakebites in this country are usually the ones who refuse treatment.
A kid showed up at the serpentarium one day with what he thought was a milk snake. George told him it was a great coral snake and they were going to buy it from him. The kid said, “It’s a milk snake. I know because it bit me twice yesterday.” The kid had been at the beach, caught the snake, got bitten, and then went to a party that night. George looked closely, and noticed the boy already had eyelid ptosis (binocular diplopia and ptosis, meaning drooping of the eyelids). They packed him in a car, and rushed him to the hospital. He survived.
“Coral snake venom is very potent and may result in a delayed onset of significant neurotoxicity and respiratory failure.” – National Institutes of Health
George himself suffered six bites in one moment from a King Cobra that almost killed him. We noticed when he first came out that his left arm had suffered damage from something pretty severe. If you can imagine a snake bite swelling your arm to massive proportions, and the resulting muscle and tendon damage, you can picture what an arm might look like afterward. He was also missing a finger but we’re not sure where that accident occurred. The king cobra lunged at him (they don’t normally do that), and it’s fangs traveled up his arm, resulting in six bites.
I recorded a video of him extracting venom from another king cobra. He grabs the critter with his bare hands. You can view the video RIGHT HERE. (And, yes, those are modified golf clubs they’re using!)
George has received several other snake bites as well and he always travels to the hospital with his own anti-venom. Needless to say, he’s a pretty interesting guy!
We enjoyed the venom show immensely, and then walked through the rest of the grounds, looking at a variety of snakes, alligators, birds (they all talked!), and much more. We highly recommend visiting Reptile World Serpentarium if you’re near St. Cloud, Florida. Your kids will LOVE it…and so will you! 🙂
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