One of the important functions of the Australian Reptile Park, along with education and tourism, is the collection of venom from deadly species of snakes and spiders. The venom is used by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories - better known as CSL Limited, to manufacture the only Australian antivenoms that save human snakebite spiderbite victims.
The Reptile Park is the sole supplier of the venoms required by CSL Limited in the production of antivenoms for terrestrial snakes (not sea snakes) and funnel-web spiders. To keep up the supply of venoms, highly trained staff of the Australian Reptile Park regularly 'milk' more than 300 snakes and 500 spiders that are included in the program.
A simplified explanation of how the snake antivenoms are produced, is that extremely small amounts of say, tiger snake venom are injected into huge Percheron horses on a regular basis over a long period of time. The amounts are so small that the horses are not affected except that produces antibodies to counteract the foreign substance in its system. After some 10-12 months of this immunological 'conditioning', a small proportion of each horse's blood is removed and the plasma is extracted. This plasma contains the antibodies which, when injected into a snake bite victim, will neutralize snake venom.
In the case of funnel-web spider antivenom, rabbits are used instead of horses. These animals suffer no ill-effects and are used repeatedly to help save human lives in this fashion. Some of the horses have been carrying out this essential service to Australians for many years. The funnel-web spider program at the Park depends largely upon the provision of male specimens from the area within 150 km of Sydney.
The Australian Reptile Park is the hands-on zoo and boasts loads of animal interaction and exciting wildlife shows. Have a close encounter with some of the park’s scaly and furry animals during Snappy Hour 11am-2pm daily, including a walk with Hugo the giant Galapagos tortoise. Elvis, NSW's biggest crocodile, is fed at 1:30pm on weekends and school holidays. See their spectacular alligator feeding from the banks of their massive ’gator lagoon. See native and exotic reptiles and spiders in their unique exhibits The Lost World of Reptiles and Spider World, featuring Tarantula-ville.