We are proud to announce that a 5 page feature about our Venom Defender Gloves has appeared in the popular German Reptile Magazine ‘Reptilia’. This magazine covers the German speaking countries of Germany, Switzerland and Austria.
You can also read the direct translated article below:
The room was rammed full for the busiest meeting of the International Herpetological Society since anyone could remember. Renowned British venomous reptile expert Luke Yeomans stood at the front of the crowd and in a box next to him on the table was an albino Siamese Cobra (Naja siamensis).
The purpose of the meeting was to test two pairs of gloves that claimed to protect against venomous snake bites. Luke slid his hand into the first glove and allowed the cobra to bite down hard. We all gasped. His face showed little reaction and we had to wait for the snake to be re-housed and the glove removed before we could see the result. There was blood. Blood ran down Luke’s hand from the puncture wounds caused by the cobra’s fangs. The first glove had failed.
The puncture holes in his hand were marked for identification before Luke slid on the second glove. Again the cobra bit down hard and chewed for several seconds before being removed and replaced into the container. Smirking, Luke pulled off the glove and held the hand aloft for everyone to see. “Safe!” he exclaimed! “No blood! No puncture! They’re good!” The room erupted with applause.
At this point we should perhaps mention that the Siamese cobra used for the experiment was a venomoid specimen, having undergone a surgical procedure as a hatchling to remove its venom glands. Although rather painful, the experiment presented no danger for Luke.
The Science Part
Luke Yeomans and I had discussed these gloves many times before the demonstrations that evening and we were excited that the gloves presented the potential to revolutionise safe animal handling. We could see benefits not only for the handler, but, more importantly, for the animal too. Like everyone else in the room I found the experiments exciting, but for me this was also the beginning of the Venom Defender glove.
The gloves work by incorporating three layers ‘Super Fabric’ with a hexagonal grain that is mismatched for increased protection. For many years the gloves had been used to protect against needle stick injuries for people working with discarded syringes, such as hospital staff and municipal cleaners. Given that syringes are far sharper than snake fangs, we were confident that the gloves would pass any reptilian test. So in order to be sure we conducted a series of experiments before launching them to the animal handling market.
The experiment performed at the I.H.S. society meeting was conducted using a venomoid snake and so there was no danger if the gloves failed. However, it was clear to us that we would need to conduct tests using a broad range of venomous species, but very few venomoid snakes are available. Realising that we would need to use fully venomous animals in the experiments we knew we had to devise a different test method that did not present any risks.
We eventually devised a test utilising latex rubber gloves filled with ice that had been dyed red with food colouring. By inserting the slightly defrosted ‘ice-hand’ into the venom protector glove we could ascertain if the latex had been breached by the bite by checking leaked ‘blood’. Thanks to Luke Yeomans allowing us access to his venomous snake collection we tested a wide variety of venomous species using this method with total 100% success for the Venom Defender glove.
It was at this point that Luke decided that a more authentic test was needed. He decided to use the Venom Defender glove to protect his own hand from bites using fully venomous species. After so many successful tests we were confident that the gloves would do their job, although of course we were still a little nervous. Happily the Venom Defender gloves prevented penetration from a wide selection of bites using a live human subject tests. Since then the gloves have been tested by a selection of different handlers with a wide variety of venomous species and with other animal families and taxa too, such as small sharks, small crocodilians, seals, birds, primates and other sharp toothed mammals.
The greatest test
We are often asked if Venom Defender gloves are effective against bites from species with long fangs such as Gaboon vipers. However, our tests prove that Gaboon vipers are not the toughest test the Venom Defender gloves have faced.
A Gaboon viper with a 40mm head has enough biting power to leave an indentation of 0.26mm in our test medium. A King cobra of the same size left a 4.77mm indentation, indicating a biting power almost 20 times greater! Consider too that most vipers and rattle snakes employ a ‘strike and release’ method which imparts relatively minimal pressure. The Cobras typically use a ‘strike & hold’ process, often chewing and ‘jaw-walking’ as they bite their prey. During our research we found this process to be the biggest test for the Venom Defender glove and we are glad to say that it passed with flying colours. The tests gave us an even greater respect for elapids such as cobras and confirmed that the King cobra lives up to its name!
Reptile Species tested to date
- King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) (4.5 meters / 14ft)
- Forest Cobra (Naja melanoleuca)
- Black adder (Vipera berus)
- Brown Adder (Vipera berus)
- Southern Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus helleri)
- Gaboon Viper (Bitis gabonica)
- Fer-de-Lance (Bothrops lanceolatus)
- Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis)
- Papa New Guinea Taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus canni)
- Cottonmouth (Agkisterodon piscivorous)
- Eyelash pit viper (Bothriechis schlegelii)
- Northern Mojave rattlesnake (C.scutellatus)
- Red diamond backed rattlesnake (C.ruber)
- False mole viper (Atractapis fallax)
- Shield-nose cobra (Aspidelaps scuttatus)
- Spitting cobra (Hemachatus haemachatus)
- Mozambique spitting cobra (Naja mossambica)
- Snouted cobra (Naja annulifera)
- Puff adder (Bitis arietans)
- Cape cobra (Naja nivea)
- Southern stiletto snake (Atractaspis bibronii)
- Coral cobra (Aspidelaps lubricus)
- Red adder (Bitis rubida)
- Southern adder (Bitis armata)
- Saw-scaled vipers (Echis species)
- Black-tailed rattlesnake (Crotalus molossus)
- Western diamond backed rattlesnake (C. atrox)
Not everyone is a fan of the gloves and some claim that they can even increase the risk and danger of handling venomous or dangerous species. Criticism of the gloves varies, but usually centres on the idea that using the gloves encourages the handler to be more careless. Our experience is that this is not the case and we consider it unlikely. After all, motorcyclists wearing crash helmets are not compelled to ride dangerously and bullet proof vests do not compel the wearer to take more risks.
Given the technology and manufacturing process involved we think the gloves are reasonably priced, but another objection focuses on the price of the gloves as some people consider them too expensive. We ask ‘What price do you put on the value of your hand, your arm or your life?’ If you are unsure, ask your mother or your partnerto answer this question and often the funds will often become available immediately.
We vehemently discourage handlers from considering the gloves to be a defensive shield to protect them from death in extreme situations. Nor should they be used to facilitate extra or unnecessary risks. That would be foolish. We advocate that the Venom Defender glove is an extra line of protection for the routine handling and maintenance procedures that are a necessary part of animal husbandry. When changing water bowls, removing faeces and transferring animals from one place to another the Venom Defender gloves provide an added layer of protection that previously was not available. They provide infinitely more protection than the product the handler was using previously – ie none.
Tested to destruction
Every material on the planet has a breaking point and we knew that something, somewhere would be sharp enough to pierce the gloves. Our next task was to find out what that point would be. As the gloves are stitched together we know that needles could puncture them, but we also know that the methods used to manufacture the gloves are far more forceful the puncture risk from a venomous reptile. We wanted to find the glove’s limitations.
It was during a test at Sea Life Centre in Weymouth that we eventually found an animal that could pierce the glove. After several successful tests with smaller specimens, the curators introduced us to the animal for a final experiment. Having a barb measuring approximately 25cm, a large Cow Nosed stingray would be a formidable test indeed. The speed of the attack was staggering and it was a few seconds before we realised that the barb had skewered a hole straight through the glove. I could think of only one thought – the death of Steve Irwin.
It might be surprising that we were very pleased when the glove failed. Until that point the gloves might have been considered indestructible and I knew that this perspective might be dangerous. Now we knew that the gloves COULD be pierced and now, because of the breach by the sting-ray barb, everyone knew their limits. We are always quick to point out that the gloves do not give the handler super-hero powers or render them indestructible. The Venom Defender gloves are simply an extra layer of protection that one should use within their capabilities to enhance safe handling procedures. Thinking them to be indestructible is foolish and dangerous and was never our intention.
Watching the first test using a venomoid cobra during the society meeting, I knew the gloves had the potential to revolutionise animal handling. However I quickly realised that my focus was a little different from most of the people there, who saw the gloves solely as a barrier to protect handlers from danger. I looked it from a different angle altogether – I looked at the benefits for the animal. After many experiments, conversations and meetings with animal handling specialists around the world the broad scope of these animal welfare benefits became increasingly evident. And from that perspecvtive the Venom Defender Glove is an enormous breakthrough.
A good example of this was demonstrated to us by Dr Ian Stephens, Curator of Reptiles at London Zoo. Introducing us to a large Phillipine Water Monitor (Varanus cuningi) he explained the restraint that had been previously necessary for moving the animal. He described the thrashing, clawing and biting exhibited by the monitor as it struggled to break free from restraint, and the stresses and injuries incurred by the handlers. He then opened the enclosure and allowed the animal to crawl onto the glove where it sat without need for any restraint at all; both handler and animal exhibiting no stress during the procedure.
We have since introduced the Venom Defender gloves to a wide variety of businesses and organisations where animal welfare benefits are the primary motivation for using the gloves. Whilst handlers can be kept safe by using traditional tools such as hooks, grabs and shields, using the Venom Defender glove is often a far gentler option for the animal whilst still providing handler protection. This is perhaps why Venom Defender gloves are proving so popular with organisations such as zoos and veterinarians.
Zoological Institutions using Venom Defender gloves
- ZSL London Zoo
- Jersey Zoo
- Bristol Zoo
- Marwell Zoo
- Paignton Zoo
- West Midlands Safari Park
- Singapore Zoo
- Asbl Belgium
- Faunia Spain
- Plzn Town Zoo Czech Republic
We’re very excited about the future for Venom Defender gloves. Our hopes for their usefulness have been confirmed in hundreds of tests and real life case studies and they are now used in many different establishments and in a wide range of applications. The obvious markets such as zoos and veterinary organisations are quickly taking up using Venom Defender gloves to protect handlers and to enhance animal welfare, but they are also useful in a wide range of other scenarios too.
We recently secured a Ministry of Defence contract with the UK government to supply Venom Defender gloves to Camp Bastion in Afghanistan where they are used by trained soldiers to capture and remove venomous snakes that enter the camp. Previously these animals would have been killed and so we are very pleased to be part of a process that prevents these unnecessary deaths. We also supply Venom Defender gloves to BP for use at their oil fields in Iraq for the same reason. We supply to UK Police and Fire services too and, to mining companies in East and West Africa.
The RSPCA, field and expedition workers, film crews, photographers, snake handlers, pet shops, reptile breeders, venom extraction companies and hobbyist handlers across the world are using Venom Defender gloves and reporting great success. We’ve even supplied Venom Defender gloves to Discovery Channel’s presenter Donald Shultz for use in two of his TV series.
But our proudest contract however, is to supply 46 Sea Life Centres across the world with Venom Defender gloves for use in their aquarium exhibits. Despite (or because of) the puncture breach by the ray sting in our tests, it is clear that Venom Defender gloves offer significant protection during routine handling scenarios, and that is when most accidents happen. Animals that are moved and handled using the gloves are subjected to far less stress as restraint is often unnecessary now that handlers are protected from sharp exoskeletons, teeth and stinging barbs. Experts there are confident that Venom Defender gloves bring enormous benefits to handlers and improvements to animal welfare when used correctly and within their limitations.
We couldn’t agree more.
Dedicated to the memory of Luke Yeomans who died in June 2011. Our close friend, our inspiration and sorely missed.