Gators, and turtles, and cobras oh my! Blending in with the Live Oaks and Spanish Moss on HWY 174, just a few miles from Edisto Beach, is the life’s work of Ted and Heyward Clamp. The Edisto Island Serpentarium and Gift Shop is one of only a few such places in America, a "zoo” for reptiles and serpents of all kinds. While snakes might not be for everyone, the Edisto Serpentarium presents its inhabitants in unique, open habitats that provide for optimal viewing and a wonderful learning experience for everyone.
Four times throughout the day, a live snake presentation is given by Anne Clamp in the Serpentarium’s amphitheater. During the twenty minute program Anne, a herpetologist, educates the crowd about snake identification, characteristics and behavior. Well-rehearsed and gifted with a calming and crystal clear voice, Anne is as captivating as the serpents at her feet. She calmly uses her snake hook to retrieve a copperhead snake. Next followed an obese Water moccasin aka Cotton Mouth, and Anne dispelled the folk lore about it being a vicious snake that will chase humans. Quite the contrary, the water moccasin, due to its hefty body type, is slow and clumsy. Its inability to get out of the way of crushing feet is the reason for its aggressive outlook on life. A few more intimidating specimens came out and she closed the show with Wilson, a five foot python, who was very docile and accepted the touches and inquiring hugs of at least a dozen small children. "Wilson feels like a fresh shucked corn cob!” is how one small fan described him, according to Anne. It’s a very accurate description. His very demeanor was pleasant and he seemed to enjoy absorbing his host’s body heat.
The day, even though it was drizzling and chilly, continued to provide surprise and excitement. Junior, the King Cobra was finally put on display in his new enclosure. Witnessing a seven foot Cobra settle in to unfamiliar surroundings is a chilling experience. His eyes are orbs of intense fury and intelligence. He would make an excellent super villain/ evil genius in any plot-line.
It was in front of the Cobra enclosure our tour elevated in excitement with the addition of Michael Haug, head curator of the Serpentarium. As equally excited about all things reptile as the Clamp family, Michael has been with the Serpentarium for many years. It was with great detail and enthusiasm that he answered all of our questions. He moved around the alligators, even while one was snapping at him, with smooth, calm grace and a pleasant smile on his face. You can’t help but want to compare him to what Steve Irwin might have been like at that age.
The walls of the atrium are covered with stories, letters, photos, and relics of daring expeditions by the Clamp brothers. It’s clear this is a group of fearless and passionate individuals who have come together with a life goal to educate the public, and preserve and protect the reptilian world. They are also quietly helping to keep hospitals and clinics around the world supplied with anti-venom. As one of only six venom extraction labs in America, they stay busy. The extracted venom is sent away for processing to become the healing serum for snake bites.
If the Serpentarium hasn't made your to-do list yet, or it’s been a while since your last visit, make a point to stop by. They are constantly adding new exhibits and updating their collection.
If you enjoyed this blog post, stay tuned for more about the Clamps and their Serpentarium as we unfold more photos, videos, and interviews!