Hereford & Worcester

Bitten handler Mark O'Shea 'forgives snake'

Mark O'Shea
Image caption Mark O'Shea said his neck muscles starting tightening up

A snake handler at West Midlands Safari Park who collapsed after being bitten by a king cobra says he has forgiven the reptile.

Mark O'Shea, from Telford, Shropshire, was bitten by the 14-year-old serpent, called Sleeping Beauty, on Sunday.

He has described how he went on to address an audience at the safari park soon after being bitten.

But after a few minutes Mr O'Shea said he became dizzy and could not speak and had to be flown to hospital.

The venom from a single cobra bite is strong enough to kill an elephant.

'Pool of venom'

Mr O'Shea, who has presented TV programmes for Channel 4, the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet and written books on reptiles, said Sleeping Beauty was presented with a dead rat "on a long pair of forceps".

He added: "She rushed forward to take the rat. She missed it and started to basically try and find it with her mouth and I moved and she grabbed my shoe and she bit my shoe.

"I folded back my sock and could see a large pool of venom from the bite, but there were no puncture wounds on my skin, so I thought 'well, we've been lucky, she hasn't penetrated'.

"I'm five, six, seven minutes into the [talk] and I started to have a few problems... my neck muscles and my tongue muscles were tightening up."

Mr O'Shea said he came off stage and asked a colleague at the safari park in Bewdley, Worcestershire, to "start the snakebite procedure".

Soon after he was airlifted to hospital for treatment.

Mr O'Shea added that Sleeping Beauty, who had a life-saving operation two months ago, was still his "favourite snake".

The snake handler added: "She's recovering well and that's why we're giving her extra special treats, these lovely rats she likes to eat.

"She did not attack me defensively or out of aggression. She simply responded because she was hungry and went for the rat and made a mistake and grabbed my shoe."

Asked how many times he had been bitten altogether, Mr O'Shea said: "It's between me and God... I don't count them.

"They're not boy scout merit badges."

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