Kentuckians travel to Sri Lanka to share snake venom expertise

Kentucky Reptile Zoo director Jim Harrison and curator Kristen Wiley went to Sri Lanka as part of a humanitarian effort with the non-profit group.

"They have at least a couple thousand people a year die from snakebites. Here in the U.S. we have from zero to twelve people die from snakebites," said Harrison.

The duo spent two weeks working with and training staff there to not only extract venom but also to care for the reptiles.

Sri Lanka currently gets its antiserum from India but it's grown ineffective for treating snakebites on the island. The bites are most common in rural parts of the country. Harrison says Sri Lanka averages 40,000 snakebites a year.

"We allowed them to do the extractions themselves, watched them, corrected them. We're hoping that in the near future they'll be able to do everything in country themselves," Harrison said.

The Kentucky Reptile Zoo is the largest venom production facility in the United States.


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