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Posted by W von Papineäu on April 16, 2003 at 11:14:49:
SUNDAY TIMES (Johannesburg, S Africa) 13 April 03 Charmer milks his friends for all they're worth at unusual trade fair (Penny Sukhraj)
Mike Perry is a professional milker - not of the common cow but of South Africa's 10 deadliest snakes.
Perry, who boasts an impressive collection of snakes, was one of the star attractions at the first Reptile Trading Day, held yesterday at Honeydew, Joburg, by Save Our Snakes.
Reptile enthusiasts, breeders and specialist retailers sold and showed their finest cold-blooded specimens.
SOS said there was a need to educate people about snakes because of the increased incidence of people finding the creatures in their homes.
Organiser Arnou Naudé said 12 people had been bitten by snakes and one killed in the Pretoria area last year.
"Doctors treating bites don't always know how to treat them because of their limited experience. We do, however, know what to do and can help advise on what anti-venom would best help save a victim," said Naudé.
Perry, who became fascinated with the slithery reptiles at the age of 10, professionally breeds and milks snakes for the purpose of manufacturing snake bite venom.
"When I was young, I lived in an area abundant with wild bush. My parents often found snakes, but would always kill them.
"I became increasingly distraught that they would simply kill the poor creatures, without knowing whether they were poisonous or harmful," he said.
So Perry started reading about snakes and educating himself.
"I figured that the best way to learn about them was to catch and breed them."
Until four years ago, this was the 47-year-old snake charmer's hobby.
"But then it became a business when I won the contract to supply venom to the South African Vaccine Producers."
The mamba, cobra, rinkhals, puffadder, gaboon viper and the boomslang are among the most poisonous reptiles in his collection.
His expert knowledge and 38-year acquaintance with his limbless companions have not been entirely safe and painless.
He was bitten in 1971 by the venomous puffadder and suffered acute shock, which caused his blood pressure to drop drastically and his breathing to stop.
He narrowly escaped after being rushed to hospital and treated.
He was also bitten in 1972, this time by the deadly rinkhals.
"I have a healthy respect for them. I know better than to allow them near my body," he said.
Other reptiles on view at the SOS event included Burmese pythons, exotic Tasmanian chameleons and treacherous scorpions.
SOS plans to hold next year's reptile trading day at the Sundome, Johannesburg.
"There are so many people interested. Today we've had people fly in from different parts of the country, to have a look at what's on offer locally. Next year can only get better," said Naudé.