Safety gets all snakey with Neville Burns

Don't get too close: The snake man of Lawson, Neville Burns, loves to poke under rocks and pick up some of the world's most dangerous snakes around the Mountains, even though their bite could be fatal to him. This diamond python stole the limelight during the filming of his DVD.
Don't get too close: The snake man of Lawson, Neville Burns, loves to poke under rocks and pick up some of the world's most dangerous snakes around the Mountains, even though their bite could be fatal to him. This diamond python stole the limelight during the filming of his DVD.
Snake man: Neville Burns has been educating the public about snakes for 40 years and has a DVD out about snakes from the Mountains.

Snake man: Neville Burns has been educating the public about snakes for 40 years and has a DVD out about snakes from the Mountains.

It's not everyone's cup of tea or even easy viewing, but a new DVD about the dangerous snakes of the Blue Mountains will give you a handy bit of education about our scary local reptiles from the [dis]comfort of your computer or lounge room.

Lawson snake man, Neville Burns, 65, is a keen conservationist and has spent most of his life entertaining and educating audiences around the world about the snakes of the Blue Mountains.

His new DVD "Blue Mountains Snakes" produced by Faulconbridge filmmakers, Vision TV, pays tribute to that passion.

One of the nation's most respected herpetologists, Mr Burns lost a finger to a red bellied black snake "from the venom of a bite a number of years ago". He also nearly lost his life at 19 after being bitten by an eastern brown.

The video shows him handling 10 of the most common Mountains snakes, including two of the top five most venomous snakes in the world - the mainland tiger snake and the eastern brown snake.

In pre anti-venom days old bushmen would cut off a finger to survive a snake bite from a death adder but this DVD also has a first aid section with simple information that explains what to do if you are bitten by a snake - all you need is a bandage.

Mr Burns, who has been working for 57 years in the reptile business, made the video to educate the public.

"Stories of snakes chasing people are ridiculous. Why would they chase an animal they can't eat?"

"I do educational safety shows for government departments and councils and have spent 40 years in public education," the licensed snake handler said.

Surprisingly he is allergic to the horse serum that the antivenom is based on - something he only discovered at 19 when he was bitten by the deadly eastern brown snake.

"People do think I'm crazy. I was out catching snakes at eight - brown snakes. I don't recommend that to anyone."

"I've only ever had the antivenom once, when my heart stopped three times. I was on life support for seven days [but] I only gave it [snake handling] up for 12 weeks."

One of his roles, which he does as a volunteer and demonstrates in the video, involves removing unwanted snakes from backyards and releasing them in the nearby bush.

The DVD is on sale at the Katoomba visitor centre, the Hydro Majestic and the National Parks office at Blackheath.

Neville Burns will present his Blue Mountains Reptile Awareness shows in the grounds of the Hydro Majestic this Sunday August 23 from 1pm.

SNAKE FACTS

n The red bellied black snake can survive under water for 40 minutes without coming up for breath - check your pool!

n Venom never dries up in a snake. "Venom is a very stable substance. It's like saliva ... even after the snake's been milked," he said.

n Some snakes, such as tiger snakes which have killed hundreds of people, can give birth to 80 babies at once. The record is 109 but the average is 15 to 30 at one time. But "left alone they are a gentlemanly snake".

GIVEAWAY

We have five copies of the DVD to giveaway.

To enter, send to Snake man competition, c/o The Editor, Blue Mountains Gazette, PO BOX 21, Springwood, 2777.

Include your full name, address and daytime contact number.

Competition closes Friday August 28.

Entries can also be dropped off at the Springwood office at 274 Macquarie Road.

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