The Huffington Post Cavan Sieczkowski First Posted: 06/21/13 EDT Updated: 06/22/13 EDT
A German snake expert died after being bitten multiple times by a viper during a presentation aimed at helping people ease their fears of the scaly reptiles.
Dieter Zorn, a 53-year-old herpetologist, died Tuesday evening of a heart attack minutes after he was bitten by an Aspic viper, according to Germany's English-language newspaper The Local. Zorn was in southern France performing his "Reptile Show," which teaches people how to overcome their fears of snakes, when he was bitten several times.
His co-host, Uschi Kallus, told The Local that Zorn died from an "extremely rare allergic reaction" to the bite, even though emergency personnel administered a blood thinner. She said he wouldn't have wanted the snake to be blamed for his death and added that the incident was "exceptionally uncommon."
Zorn's show encourages attendees to handle the reptiles so as to get past "unfounded" fears. France's Midi Libre newspaper reported "the audience, filled with curious people, almost saw him die" on stage, according to a Huffington Post translation.
Vipers are poisonous snakes, Animal Planet notes. Snake venom is meant to kill prey, with the poison working to damage an animal's nerves, heart, breathing, blood vessels and body tissues. The Aspic viper is a snake native to France, Switzerland, Spain and Italy. It can grow up to 20 inches in length and live in a variety of habitats.