Pandemic pressures have pushed Dubbo's snake man Paul Kirk to say goodbye to his life-long passion at 81-years-old.
Mr Kirk is well-known for hosting educational snake shows across the region, which he has done since leaving his job at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in 1998.
"It was a hobby, a passion more than a business," Mr Kirk said.
Mr Kirk owns a personal collection of more than 40 snakes, from pythons to brown snakes and everything in between, but due to no longer having the means to pay for his hobby since COVID-19, he has decided to retire; a decision which was hard for him to come to.
"I might keep a couple of the bigger pythons, but I will be selling at least three quarters," he said.
"So long as coronavirus wasn't about I could have kept going with what I had, but as you know, all hell broke loose when COVID hit.
"I haven't done a show in over a year now, and it's not just me, it has affected all sorts of people. I haven't had money coming in for them for a year, so it was heartbreaking to decide to retire, but it's just time."
Mr Kirk can tell each of his snakes apart, all of which also have their own name.
"I was about 12 when I discovered my love of snakes. I was taking my dog for a walk on the English canals and watched this grass snake dive underneath.
"It was so beautiful so I stayed there waiting for it to come up. I wait and waited and it finally did come back up and it had a very bright yellow collar. It wasn't dangerous but it was such a magical thing."
Mr Kirk said it is horrible to be without something he has become used to for such a long time and he is hoping he will find something to help fill the void his snakes will no doubt leave behind.
Mr Kirk said there is one 'very important' thing that he does have to say before retiring, and it is a message to the staff at Dubbo Hospital.
"I go to the hospital fairly regularly when I get bitten by a snake because I don't have any choice. It doesn't matter how many times I've been to the hospital, and if you enquire it is a hell of a lot, they have always done their best for me.
"They have never told me off for getting bitten. And after all this, my bloody carelessness, I'm supposed to be the expert and I get bitten and clubbed.
"My problem is I love them too much. I'm too fond of them and consequently, I get too close to them, even to the venomous once. It's no big deal to me, but to the hospital, it's a very big deal.
"But they have never ever had a go at me over it and have always been extremely kind and made sure I am 100 per cent alright before letting me go home."
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