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Bill Haast
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Animal Expert
    (December 30, 1910-June 15, 2011)
    Born in Patterson, New Jersey
    Director of the Miami Serpentarium (1947-84)
    Housed 500 snakes by 1965
    Milked venom from snakes 70-100 times a day, usually in front of paying customers
    Was bitten by poisonous snakes 173 times
    Built up immunity by regularly injecting a mix of venoms from 32 snake species
    While working as a flight engineer for Pan Am during WWII, he smuggled snakes from overseas to the US in his toolbox. ('In those days there were no laws prohibiting it, but the crew members didn't appreciate it.')
    His first marriage broke up over his obsession with snakes.
    After he was bitten by a krait and an anti-venom was flown in from India, he refused to take it. (Hey, they went to all that trouble. The polite thing would be to at least try it.)
    He and a Miami doctor created a serum from snake venom that they claimed was effective against arthritis and multiple sclerosis, but the FDA banned the product as useless (1980).
    He had to shut the Serpentarium down after a six-year-old boy fell into a crocodile pit and was fatally mauled.
    He eventually had to give up handling poisionous snakes after losing a finger to tissue damage from repeated bites (2003).
    Over 50,000 tourists a year visited the Serpentarium.
    The Reptile Centre in Northampton, England, called him 'an inspirational man within the world of reptiles.'
    He saved 21 snake-bite victims when a suitable anti-venom was unavailable by donating his anti-venom rich blood.
    He was honored by the city of Miami for his work as a consultant to their Fire-Rescue Venom Response Unit.
    He lived to the century mark and boasted 'I feel like a man in his 60s' in his mid-90s, so maybe snake venom does have health benefits. (Or perhaps, if you are the type of dude who can take 173 poisonous bites, mere old age ain't going to faze you.)

Credit: C. Fishel

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