Page 3 Profile, Mark O'Shea, reptile expert


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The Independent Online

Has he discovered a new type of snake?

Unfortunately not. Even more unfortunately, he has just been bitten by a rather big one. O'Shea was feeding the King Cobra a rat at West Midland Safari Park on Sunday when the 10-foot serpent sunk its teeth into his leg. King Cobras are one of the deadliest snakes around – the venom of one bite can kill an elephant – so it was a pretty hairy moment for the experienced reptile handler.

Sounds like a bad day at the office

Yes, but 56-year-old O'Shea is not known for shying away from danger. Over the past 30 years the herpetologist (amphibian and reptile expert) and TV presenter has gone on over 60 expeditions around the world, seeking out many rare, and lethal, reptiles. He is very well respected in his field and has written extensively on snakes and their venom. When West Midland Safari's reptile house was first set up in 1987, it was mostly stocked with specimens from his own personal collection and, in 2009, it was renamed after the man himself.

Was this his first big bite?

Far from it. In 1993 he almost died after being bitten by a canebrake rattlesnake in the very same Safari Park. He spent nine days in hospital and was still recovering fully a year later. Since then he has had more than his fair share of bites from a wide range of lizards, snakes and insects.

Will he survive?

Thanks to the quick work of the on-site first aid team, O'Shea was rapidly treated with anti-venom. They also immobilised his leg preventing the poison from spreading through his blood stream and Midlands Air Ambulance then ferried him to hospital to recover.

He went straight back to the wildlife park after being discharged yesterday morning.