Fearless couple Siouxsie Gillet and Simon Paul Keys are so obsessed with snakes, lizards and spiders that they share their home with 100s them!
The pair run a sanctuary in Dunstable in Bedfordshire, spending their time looking after species that would leave most people terrified.
Simon says, ‘I think we’re around 80 snakes so it’s quite a lot. We have several venomous snakes here at the moment.’
‘We’ve got two reticulated pythons in here. One is about 12-14 feet and one is about 10 feet. So they’re both quite big! If it manages to get round you and starts constricting you, the chances of you getting it off yourself are quite slim.’
Among the couple’s daily chores is the daunting task of cleaning out the reptile’s tanks. This is a two-person job, mainly due to how strong and potentially poisonous some of their scaly residents are, as Simon explains:
‘If you get bitten by a venomous snake, your life is in danger. Most of the time people don’t die from venomous snakes bites but you could end up in really big trouble like say you might lose a hand, a finger, an arm. They can be dangerous. If you have an aggressive 20 foot snake it’s not handleable on your own, not safely anyway.’
And although rare, snakebites are a sharp reminder of just how dangerous looking after venomous reptiles can be. Something Simon knows all too well.
‘I have been bitten before. I was bitten by a copperhead actually twice. My arm swelled up the size of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s and started to go black. The pain is like putting your hand or arm into boiling water or fire.’
It’s not surprising then that safety comes first at the sanctuary!
‘We’ve got protective gloves which can withstand a snakebite. Every door is double locked and the cages are obviously locked as well.’
The couple have a serious message for all of the visitors to the sanctuary, especially those who are thinking about owning an exotic animal with no experience.
‘We try to educate people about the snakes and why the snakes are here. You know people see a nice cute little snake in a pet shop, something might only be a few inches long and potentially can get 18 plus feet.’
Siouxsie adds, ‘Having visitors here at the secret sanctuary as well we’re trying to sort of change people’s attitudes and how they feel about snakes. People think they’re horrible, slimy, disgusting so hopefully by coming here they see how amazing they are, how beautiful they are.’
And she’s also keen to mention that their love of animals doesn’t just end with reptiles and spiders!
‘I think if there were no limits, no licensing, no worries about space, we’d end up having elephants probably a giraffes head coming through the window!’
Sounds incredible – although we’re not sure we want to pop round for a cuppa any time soon!