Ex-Durban snake handler dies after Black Mamba bite


Durban – A former Phoenix resident whose lifelong passion was snakes died at the weekend after being bitten by a Black Mamba while extracting its venom for medical use.

Ryan Soobrayan, a professional herpetologist died in hospital on Saturday, a day before his 27th birthday.

Soobrayan, who relocated with his parents from Durban to Gauteng, was a snake farm manager for African Reptiles and Venom (ARV). The company provides snake identification and awareness, snakebite treatment and first aid venomous snake handling.

On Wednesday, the fang of a Black Mamba punctured his finger while he was extracting its venom.

Mike Perry the owner of ARV said Soobrayan was in control of the snakes, venom extraction and due to his experience he sometimes stood in for him in presenting training.

Perry explained Soobrayan had a severe anaphylactic reaction from the Mamba venom.

“His untimely demise was not due to the bite but as a result of anaphylaxis. We are devasted by the incident. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction,” he said.

Ryan Soobrayan, 26, who relocated with his parents to Gauteng, was a snake farm manager for African Reptiles and Venom(ARV). Picture supplied.

Eugene Soobrayan, his uncle, said Ryan was born in Durban and lived with the family in Phoenix where he attended Northlands Primary. They had relocated to Gauteng 17 years ago.

“He died before he could turn 27 years old. Snakes had been his passion. The family, his two sisters and his parents are still coming to grips with what happened. Funeral arrangements are still being made,” he said.

Catherine René Soobrayan said her brother was trained in snake handling lost his life doing what he loved.

“To all who have sent their love, we appreciate it. Our Ryan has left us and we feel empty. Our life will never ever be the same. He made a difference in everyone’s life, where ever he went. We miss him so much and we ask that if you did not know my brother and you have nothing but speculation to post please desist. Everyone who knows my brother knows that he was careful, always. This was a terrible accident,” Soobrayan wrote on Facebook.

Shaun Venter, a close friend of Soobrayan and a Bluff snake and reptile rescuer, said professional snake handlers took the risk of being bitten every day. He said people like Soobrayan, who worked on extracting venom for medicine were unpraised heroes.

“This is exactly why I got out of dealing with hots (dangerous snakes). He got a small pinprick on the thumb and had a massive negative reaction. He was assisted by the best in the country and everything was done to try an save this awesome soul. He was a friend to a lot of us,” Venter added.

Tributes were pouring for Soobrayan on Facebook.

Kurt Schatzl, the President at New England Herpetological Society, said there are folks being kept alive by medications created with snake venom and venoms are also used in research to find cures or treatments for a variety of illnesses.

“There’s only one way to get that venom; you have to handle adult venomous snakes with your hands. It’s incredibly dangerous and also incredibly altruistic and heroic. I have friends who extract for scientific research and it’s always a worry that you’ll get a call sometime,” he said.

Schatzl said, “If you’re taking high blood pressure or anticoagulant medicines, you owe your very life to individuals like this man. People in the field of venomous herpetology that work behind the scenes and out of the limelight for the good of humanity.”

Robert Wedderburn, a wildlife film-maker, said he was amazed by Ryan’s passion for snakes and his dedication to learning as much about them as possible.
“He recently went out of his way to help me through a rather traumatic experience and gave me support when I had not even asked for it,” he said.

Daily News