The Australian Reptile Park is renowned for its lifesaving venom milking program, in which keepers risk their lives daily for the sake of saving hundreds across the country each year. Yesterday, Operations Manager Billy Collett, had the dangerous task of performing a health check on one the Park’s most venomous snakes, the common Death Adder.

Although the Australian Reptile Park hosts a huge variety of Australia’s deadliest snakes, the Death Adder is known to be incredibly deadly, with one bite proving fatal without antivenom treatment. With this species also being known to have the fastest strike in the world, this health check on ‘Shazza’, definitely had Mr Collett’s heart racing.

During Shazza’s health check, Mr Collett completed a milking to review the condition and amount of venom she can produce. This resulted in Shazza biting a vial and producing an impressive 270mg of venom. “The largest recorded venom yield was 235mg so this is a new world record! That’s enough to kill over 20 adult men. Death Adders also have the longest fangs than any other Australian snake so you can imagine that a single bite would definitely pack a punch.” exclaimed Mr Collett.

“She’s an intimidating animal” explains Operations Manager, Billy Collett. “Shazza is impressive, and a great ambassador for her species, educating over 250,000 people who visit the Australian Reptile ark each year about our role in the lifesaving antivenom program that saves 300 Australian lives each year.”

As a part of the health check, Mr Collett also measured and weighed her. Shazza came in at 102cm long and weighed a whopping 1.41kg! On average, death adders weigh 700g so this incredible animal is almost double the weight. Unlike mammals, reptiles don’t actively show signs that they are unhealthy. Mr Collett continued “Weighing reptiles is crucial in monitoring their health and a task where Keepers need to show extreme care, one wrong move could be deadly.

As reptiles don’t need to eat that often, it’s hard to judge their condition off how much food they eat and how often. Instead, the best way of ensuring their good health is by weighing, measuring, and giving them a close-up inspection.”

The Australian Reptile Park is the only facility in the world that milks Australian terrestrial land snakes for the production of antivenom. This is done with the help of Seqirus, who transforms the raw venom into the final product of lifesaving antivenom. The Australian Reptile Park extracts venom from five groups of Australia’s deadliest terrestrial snakes including Taipans, Brown Snakes, Tiger Snakes, Death Adders and Black Snakes.

In early 2023, the Australian Reptile Park will commence construction on a brand-new state-of-the-art venom milking facility that visitors will be able to walk through and witness the lifesaving work first-hand. The NSW State government has committed $300,000 to the project with initial planning stages well and truly underway.