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The Most Dangerous Job In The World?

The Most Dangerous Job In The World?
Standing front: Khem Swagat with his family and staff at the opening Swagat restaurant at Flagstaff Plaza on November 19, 2018. Photo: Maraia Vula
September 04
08:27 2014

When Jim Harrison says he spends his days milking animals, you could easily imagine him as a dairy farmer keeping a herd of cows.

But that is far from the truth, because the animals Jim keeps are some of the world’s most dangerous snakes, and ‘milking’ is a slang term for extracting their venom.

Every day Jim catches hundreds of the reptiles with his bare hands before holding their heads up to a glass beaker which they bite onto, squirting their venom inside.

The 55-year-old and his wife Kristen, 37, house the largest venomous snake collection in America, and possibly the world, at their Kentucky Reptile Zoo.

Incredibly, Jim has been bitten eight times, including one bite from a lance-headed viper which left him in hospital for four weeks needing three operations to remove abscesses from his fingers.

Jim’s injuries have left him without the tips on some of his fingers and with scars across his hands, but he says the pain is all worthwhile because the venom he extracts can save lives.

Black mamba venom has been researched for Alzheimer’s disease, Asian cobra venom for antiviral medication and Malayan pit viper venom for stroke victims.

Some copperhead venom has even been used in research on skin and breast cancer.

They sell the various venom for up to thousands of dollars primarily for biomedical research but also to pharmaceutical companies and university research.

Venom extraction is a non-intrusive process which allows the animals to bite and inject venom naturally

Jim said: “We have around 2000 snakes on site and average between 600-1000 extractions a week.

“The perception of anyone who keeps snake is a little weird – people don’t understand why you would risk your life.

“But the reality is it’s not that much risk if you use precaution, I think people get carried away from watching TV and the danger.

“Truthfully any of the snakes could be dangerous but they’re only dangerous if you do something stupid.”

Jim has been interested in snakes from a young age, catching his first snake aged six, while Kristen became interested in reptiles in college.

After graduating from high school aged 17 Jim began keeping snakes and extracting venom.

The pair now run the Kentucky Reptile Zoo full-time. It is a non-profit relying solely on people coming through the gates and the sale of venom.  Daily Mail




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