The Herpetarium is a UK Home Office accredited and inspected experimental animal facility and is a critical resource for all the activities of the Alistair Reid Venom Research in Medecine Unit. Our lead herpetologist, Paul Rowley, and his assistant John Dunbar provide specialist care for what is the largest and most diverse collection of venomous snakes in the UK. There is a special emphasis on the African continent with the majority of our snakes being haemotoxic vipers such as Saw-scaled vipers (Echis spp.), Puff adders (Bitis arietans), Gaboon vipers (Bitis gabonica) and neurotoxic elapids such as the Black and Green mambas (Dendroaspis spp.) and several spitting and non-spitting cobras (Naja spp.). Paul Rowley, with the assistance of Rob Harrison and John Dunbar, extracts venom from our snakes at regular intervals and this venom is immediately frozen and subsequently lyophilised and then stored at 4oC. The venom is used for antivenom production, and for our therapeutic and basic science research.
The Venom Unit has worked assiduously to increase awareness of the neglect of tropical snakebite victims. Part of this includes providing talks about our research work and tours of the Herpetarium to visitors from the Armed Forces, the public, school and college pupils, and undergraduate & post-graduate University students (3,000 visitors in the past 4 years).