Newcastle:Giant funnel-web handed into John Hunter Hospital


His nickname is Big Boy and it’s not hard to see why.

Measuring 7.5 centimetre across, this whopping specimen is the largest male funnel-web spider dropped off at the John Hunter Hospital as part of the Australian Reptile Park’s venom milking program.

Big Boy was recently found in Newcastle bushland with venom dripping from his sizable fangs

His venom will be used to make anti-venom that will save the lives of those who have been bitten by the potentially deadly creatures.

Since 1981 the Australian Reptile Park’s anti-venom program has been collecting the venom of funnel web spiders, which is sent annually to CSL Bio, a biopharmaceutical company which creates anti-venom.

Each year the aim to is to collect 300 male funnel webs to provide 3000 milkings, but in the last few years that number has been declining, with the park only able to milk around 200 funnel webs last year.

Reptile Park head curator Liz Vella at the said the park was always ready to receive spiders for milking.

“January and February are the peak times when male funnel-web spiders are out trying to find females to mate and given that only males can be milked we really encourage local communities to hand them into the Australian Reptile Park or to participating hospital drop off centres within this peak season,” Ms Vella said.

“Funnel-web spiders only live for 12 months so we’re constantly needing to re-stock our males. They’re often found in sheltered, shady spots, which are always cool, humid and often damp.

“They are a feisty species of spider and can be expected to stand their ground and defend themselves. For that reason we encourage adults to educate children that should they locate a spider of any kind that parental assistance be provided in the capture.”

The venom of a funnel web spider has a severe impact on the respiratory system. It attacks the muscles of the heart, which cause a spike in blood pressure, making the muscle spasm.

While the Australian Reptile Park will accept any spider brought in by the public, they aim to collect mainly males because their venom is six times more toxic than females.

The park has drop-off zones in Sydney, the Central Coast and Newcastle. The centres are provided with a spider safety kit to house the spiders until Australian Reptile Park staff can come and pick them up each week.

The Australian Reptile Park website features a online safety and capture video to help with the collection and delivery of a funnel web spider.

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