Zimbabwe boasts of 76 species of snakes, of those only 12 are poisonous, while 6 are highly venomous with the remaining 58 harmless.
We all know that cows can be milked as well as goats, sheep or even donkeys, but did you know that you can also milk snakes.
There’s nothing superstitious or satanic but pure science.
While most people run screaming from things that creep, crawl and can potentially kill from all manner of venomous wrath, Ben Vermeulen is a man least intimidated by reptiles.
Armed with a Herpetology Degree from Boston State University, he has for 44 years made a living through milking venom from snakes so as to get the anti venom to save the lives of those who would have been bitten by them.
But how does he extract the venom?
In Zimbabwe there are 18 types of venomous snakes which can kill, with puff adders, the gabon viper, boomslang, vine snakes and cobras topping the list and these snakes are more closer to home that one may think.
To the snake catchers the rainy season is snake season, making this period an incubation time as eggs are already in the ground being incubated and as soon as the rains come so will the snakes.
Simon Shoriwa an amateur snake handler being tutored and trained by Vermulen, the only venom harvestor in the country and one of the few in Africa gives us tips on what to do after a snake bite.
Because of its highly medicinal properties, there is a very lucrative market for snake venom overseas with a gramme of cobra venom costing $392, but to get that gramme one needs to milk about three cobras.
The venom from the horned puff adder costs $1 680.
Of course these are exciting figures, but be warned before getting carried away that Vermulen has been bitten nine times and hospitalised five times and in the process donated a piece of his fore finger to a puff adder.
This is a house snake and according to the snake catchers its harmless, but going for the boomslang, the venom costs US$4 800d.
It’s a profession that certainly carries a disclaimer that says, ‘Please do not try this at home’.