Zoo asks public to catch deadly spiders in order to milk venom

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An Australian zoo is urging members of the public to catch deadly funnel-web spiders in a bid to help replenish low antidote stocks after a heatwave led to a higher than usual rate of spider bites in recent weeks.

Tim Faulkner, manager of the Australian Reptile Park in New South Wales, is asking members of the community to catch spiders and deliver them to the park to be milked to produce antidote as the country's anti-venom program is now at risk after 2016 saw an all-time low for funnel-web hand-ins since the programme's creation 35 years ago.

This fall in anti-venom supplies comes at a time when heatwave conditions in the southeast of the country are stimulating more arachnid activity - and bites.

The Australian Reptile Park, which has been the country's sole supplier of funnel-web venom to antidote producers since 1981, relies on help from the public to restock low stores of anti-venom during this heat-wave.

The park milks funnel-webs for their venom before sending it to a division of blood plasma and vaccine maker CSL Ltd which converts it into the life-saving antidote.