A delightful detail in this story is the hero's name, Freek Vonk, which sounds great in English. Besides, this is the first time in my life that I've ever understood immediately a media heading written in Dutch (by four vowel substitutions): Steve Irwin is dood, lang leve Freek Vonk.
This Dutch guy—whose enthusiasm for reptiles and biting creatures is infectious—is in fact a serious biologist at the University of Leiden, and he hunts snakes to milk their venom, which he then uses in his research. You can find out all about him through his websites, here and here, which provided illustrations for the present blog post. Not surprisingly, Freek seems to spend a lot of time doing field work out in Australia.
His Irwin antics emerge in the following otherwise serious video:
Apparently, the proteins used by snakes to capture their prey are of great interest to researchers in genetics. A good introduction to this subject is provided here by the US scientist and writer Carl Zimmer.
POST SCRIPTUM: I'm happy to see that my Antipodes blog, as a consequence of the automatic Twitter announcement of the present post, is getting quite a few visits from the Netherlands. In watching Freek's video once again, with joy, I was suddenly reminded of a tone of voice that I had forgotten for half a century. In Sydney, when I was an adolescent (working as a computer programmer for IBM), there used to be a hardware store in George Street, not far from the town hall, called Knock & Kirby. They employed a wonderful English-born hawker who officiated in a sidewalk stand before his being transformed by his voice and talents into a TV celebrity. I forget his name, but I'll never forget his vocal marketing style. He sold vegetable-slicing gadgets in much the same way that Freek Vonk is now selling snakes. In fact, like yesterday's snake-oil charmers, exceptional individuals of this caliber succeed in using their voice to sell excitement and joy to us intrigued listeners. And what's wrong with that?
In the case of Freek Vonk, of course, there are three additional factors of a weighty nature. First, the guy is exceptionally bright and dynamic. You don't work at a doctorate at Leiden unless you know what you're talking about. Second, he's no ivory-tower academic, in that (like Steve Irwin) he knows how to communicate with us ordinary folk in the outside world, and expresses a desire to do so. And third, he seems to have mastered a spectacular real-time art of dancing out of the way of mortal bites from his friends. While touching wood, I wish him well. For Chrissake, man, don't go all the way by doing us an Irwin…