SYDNEY'S MOST known snake catcher Rob Ambrose is having a busy time this spring season as he gets about four calls in a day from households to save them from snakes. One day Vanessa Clarke called out to Ambrose to deal with a pair of diamond pythons nesting in her yard in Terrey Hills. She even knew that the snakes were not harmful but she did not want to take a chance for the sake of her children and pets.
"I'd prefer not to have them in my back garden because of the pets and the children," she said.
After Australia's inland taipan, regarded as the world's most venomous snake, and seen outside the nation's remote central desert, eastern browns are among the most toxic and can cause death in less than an hour.
It is beleived that eastern brown lives live happily alongside humans and will respond with aggression if provoked or feels threatened. Ambrose said that he had seen the longest brown of about 1.9 metres (six feet) and was probably 10-20 years old.
For Ambrose, in a year, he handles about 180 snake jobs, but during a busy period it can be four a day. Several species are found in urban areas along the populous east coast, and that's where snake-catchers such as Ambrose come in.
According to official estimates there are about 3,000 snake bite cases in Australia every year, 300-500 of which require anti-venom treatment. An average of two cases prove fatal.
Doctors said swift access to a broad-spectrum or polyvalent anti-venom has been key to his survival. Even non-venomous species can frighten the most seasoned Sydney residents who are used to sharing their backyard with a reptile or two.
Sydney's Taronga Zoo holds exposure workshops for people with a crippling fear of snakes and reptile talks for school groups to dispel some of the most common myths about the misunderstood creatures.
"Most Australians wouldn't know someone that's been bitten by a venomous snake," said Taronga reptile keeper Dean Purcell. "A lot of people think that snakes are out there to bite you and they're really aggressive and stuff but they're not really. They're really shy animals and they would rather avoid us," he added.
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