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Sharing a passion for venomous snakes

Hey everyone!  This is Ash from the Herpetology Department back to tell you about a recent professional development opportunity that I got to go to through Zoo Atlanta called the Venomous Herpetology Symposium. This conference took place in San Antonio, TX and was sponsored by conservation groups: The Rattlesnake Conservancy and Save the Snakes. 

I feel very lucky I had the opportunity to attend this wonderful symposium! This event brought together a variety of people with different career paths who all share the same passion for venomous snakes.  It also helped create a very open environment where we could learn from each other and encourage each other.  It was also nice to see there are people out there just as passionate as me about venomous snakes! I’m not actually alone (or crazy)!

Some of the presenters were emergency snake bite doctors, professors, animal care professionals, researchers, and videographers. We learned about snake bite treatments from around the world as there were herpetologists from Africa, Europe, and the World Health Organization. There was even a presentation from Dr. Sean Bush, who is a well-known snake bite doctor who appeared on the TV show “Venom ER” on Animal Planet. I remember this was one of my top shows to watch whenever I could! I never thought I would get to meet him, but I did and got to hear two of his snake bite lectures too!  I learned so much, but of course, being interested in venomous reptiles lead me to a fascination in venom, which is very complex and varies greatly in composition. Learning how the different venom works is crucial for understanding how to treat snake bites.  And there is so much potential for the use of venom in medical treatments. Scientists are constantly discovering new ways to break down and use these compounds to improve human health. So, conserving snakes and researching them is very important.

There were also a variety of other presentations on snake conservation, rattlesnake roundups, and various snake diseases, but there were also some on different social platforms as well. One of the most interesting to me was “Living Zoology,” which is a YouTube channel that herpetologists created to showcase the natural behaviors of wild reptiles. They have travelled all around the world creating beautiful documentaries. I recommend checking them out, as well as the African Snake Bite Institute. They run a very nice free APP that has educational resources, African snake IDs, and relocation of venomous snakes. If anyone is interested in learning more about the venomous snakes of Africa, check it out!

Also included with the symposium was a tour of the San Antonio Zoo’s venomous collection.  As a keeper, I am always interested in comparing notes on how other keepers at different places care for their animals. And often zoos have the same, or similar, species in their collections, as we work together to help conserve animals that are endangered or threatened in the wild.

In our culture, many people are often still taught from a young age to dislike snakes, but there are so many reasons to appreciate snakes. They are some of our most effective sources of pest control and can even help limit occurrence of human diseases like Lyme disease. And so many of them are mesmerizing and lead complex lives!  I hope you have gotten to take the time to appreciate how beautiful our amazing venomous snakes at Zoo Atlanta’s Scaly Slimy Spectacular are.

Ashley T.
Keeper III, Herpetology

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl