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Breeder of king cobras dies from snake bite

A snake breeder has been killed by one of his king cobras only days after speaking about how he was trying to save the "dangerous but misunderstood" species from extinction.

Luke Yeomans, 47, kept a collection of 20 adult and four juvenile cobras in a compound behind his house in the village of Eastwood, in Nottinghamshire, and had been planning to open it to the public this weekend to educate people about what he called an amazing species.

Nottinghamshire Police said officers called to the property at 2pm yesterday found Mr Yeomans' body. He had suffered a suspected heart attack after being bitten by a venomous snake. He was pronounced dead at the scene and the snake was contained.

Mr Yeomans had spoken to the BBC about his king cobra sanctuary and lifelong passion for snakes: "People say I am mad but I say it's better than people saying you're bad. I think everything I am doing is good."

He started the project in 2008 in reaction to the depletion of the cobra's natural habitat in the forests of south-east Asia and India, and planned to breed another 100 snakes by the end of 2011.

"I am maintaining this breeding colony of king cobras as a safety net – to protect the species from possible extinction," he said. "Until mankind changes the way he treats the natural world, a living ark is required for the survival of many animal species."

Writing on his website previously, Mr Yeomans said: "With 30 years' experience of the king cobra, myself and my daughter, Nicole, will maintain a breeding colony."

The king cobra is the world's longest venomous snake, growing up to 18 feet. It can deliver a large quantity of venom in a single bite.