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Not just for tourists: Kentucky Reptile Zoo is the largest venom producer

Posted at 9:54 PM, Jun 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-15 13:25:02-04

SLADE, Ky. (LEX 18) — The Kentucky Reptile Zoo in the Red River Gorge is more than just a great place to take your family, it’s the largest producer of snake venom in the country, their co-director said.

To produce so much venom, they have more than 1,700 snakes. They have more venomous snakes than anyone else in the country, if not the world, co-director Kristen Wiley told LEX18.

The Zoo is home to turtles, lizards, and alligators, but the specialty is snakes.

“This is not just like a tourist trap on the side of the road, this is a venom production facility, the people who work here are biologists,” Wiley said.

Co-director Jim Harrison is responsible for the venom extractions. You can catch him extracting venom at 1 pm at the Zoo. It’s one of the only places in the world you can see a venom extraction live in person.

“I extract venom because it saves lives - most people think of venom, they think of death, I think of life,” Harrison said.

The venom is used for things like cancer research and creating tests for lupus.

For more information on the Zoo, click here.