While there are a lot of small businesses in Florida, perhaps one of the most unusual is one that produces snake venom. Reptile World Serpentarium, near St. Cloud in central Florida, started its unique venture in 1972. However, it was not until 1976 that owner George VanHorn decided to open his facility to the public.
Nearly 90 percent of the venom produced at the serpentarium is used in bio-medical research. Additionally, a portion is exported to European and Asian markets.
A 30-minute presentation educates the visitor about the somewhat hazardous process of extracting venom from poisonous snakes as well as the use of venom in the marketplace.
While the predominant species of reptiles on exhibit are snakes, visitors also will see the poisonous Gila monster and other lizards. Fifteen species of rattlesnake, four species of cobra, several varieties of the deadly mamba snake and a giant boa constrictor are included in the 60 species of reptiles on exhibit.
Imagine a cobra rearing its head and opening its hood while staring you right in the eye. This is the stuff children's fantasies are made of, so don't leave them at home. Remember not to taunt the snakes. It gets them angry and shortens their lives _ not to mention what an angry snake could do for you.
Reptile World Serpentarium is open from 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Admission for adults is $4.25, age 6-17 is $3.25 and age 3-5 is $2.25.
To get there, follow State Road 44 east to Leesburg, turn south on U.S. 27. Then turn east on U.S. 192, keeping in mind that it will change names several times until you reach St. Cloud. Reptile World is on the left side of the road, 4 miles east of St. Cloud on U.S. 192.
For information, call (407) 892-6905.
The last word
"This was a total team effort by the entire department. In my opinion, this is an example of excellent investigative work on everybody's part who was involved."
_ Crystal River police Sgt. Mack Ballard on his department's capture of a rape suspect Tuesday morning.