Reptile World Serpentarium visit sheds light on venom

Snake venom is a precious commodity.
From antivenom for snakebites to cancer treatments and the latest research on neurological diseases, venom is being used in a wide variety of applications.
And George Van Horn has been collecting it for these uses for nearly 40 years.
The owner of Reptile World Serpentarium in St. Cloud, Fl., Van Horn is passionate about snakes and besides exhibiting more than 50 species, keeps hundreds for the sole purpose of extracting venom.
Twice a day he allows the public to view through safety glass that allows a peek at his high tech venom extraction room.
Last week, I got to film this for my Kingdom Zoo program for GETV and Youtube and was blown away by what I learned.
“You see this. These are fangs,” Van Horn said as he rolled carefully opened the mouth of a large eastern coral snake.
The tiny fangs were in the front of the snake’s mouth and destroy the commonly held myth that coral snakes are rear-fanged snakes that must “chew” on a person to inject venom.
“They are elapids just like cobras and they have the same skull structure. I don’t know where these rumors came from but they are persistent,” Van Horn said.
He went on to say that most coral snake bites result from people picking them up and it is often young men.
“Women typically don’t go around picking up venomous snakes. And a coral snake has a very dangerous venom that is difficult to treat so people shouldn’t fool with them,” he said.
He uses a specially designed snake stick to hold down the heads of the bigger snakes he extracts venom from but can’t do it with the corals due to their small skull. That means he grabs them quickly from behind, a method that is without question risky but is best for the long term health of the snake.
“We keep them around a long time and have to watch out for their well-being,” he said.
Another rumor that he shot down was the alleged 15 foot long eastern diamondback that has shown up in a variety of online e-mail and social media forwarded photos. The world record for the species is actually around eight feet in length.
“We have a reticulated python that is around eight feet and I can’t imagine a rattler that big. Eastern diamondbacks do get big both in length and girth but they are not as big as large pythons, not even close” Van Horn said.
The venom collecting shows daily at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. are worth the price of admission but so are the snakes on display.
From a five foot long Florida cottonmouth to a 14 foot long king cobra, a black mamba and a beautiful eastern diamondback/canebrake (timber) rattler hybrid there is a lot to see.
Snakes are part of nature whether you like it or not and if you venture into the great outdoors it is best to learn to respect them and get educated so you can handle any encounter that comes your way.
For more information go to www.reptileworldserpentarium.com
(To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at chester@kingdomzoo.com. You can hear him on “Moore Outdoors” Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on News talk AM 560 KLVI.)

Beaumont

Department of Transportation outlines closure of U.S. 69 northbound connector to Interstate 10

Local

Analyst “hopeful” Americans will soon see relief at the pump; see where Texas stands now

Columns

CULINARY THRILL SEEKING — Put creativity on your “bucket” list and upcycle

Columns

HEALTHY LIVING — What to be concerned with that lingering cough

Local

Port Neches homes set for demolition after numerous violations, safety concerns

Local

Russell Buss hits milestone with special blood donation

Local

Carjacking Task Force targeting violent crime in Southeast Texas

Local

Port Arthur students excel at Top Teens of America event

Local

PHOTO FEATURE — Memorial sophomore excels in prose interpretation

Local

RELIGION BRIEF — God 1st Missionary Baptist celebrating pastor’s anniversary

Local

PHOTO FEATURE — Criticism Team comes up extra positive

Local

PHOTO FEATURE — Taking in the Symphony

Local

Dr. Avila Arcala left mark on Port Arthur and beyond; service planned Saturday

Local

Port Arthur ISD support center renovation full go; district leaders outline plans and timeline

Local

U.S. Navy for Port Arthur’s Hyleta Floyd is about service and family

Local

FIT BODY BOOT CAMP PUMPS UP VOLUME — Fitness goals via a welcoming environment is the mission

Local

Jury sentences Port Arthur man week after he was found guilty in Beaumont killing

Local

Port Arthur Police say arrests coming following shooting of 16-year-old local girl

Local

National Weather Service outlines heavy rain concern for Southeast Texas

Local

Willie Mae Elmore, former Port Arthur ISD trustee, nurse educator, dies at 74

High School Sports

Port Neches-Groves’ Morgan Campbell setting school record pace en route to regionals

Local

Troop Industrial earns special Veteran-owned small business certification

Local

Port Arthur and Beaumont Rotary Clubs, 100 Black Men of Greater Beaumont gathering for Sleep in Heavenly Peace impact

Local

Authorities identify 21-year-old Nederland man killed in ATV crash