A couple obsessed with exotic pets, keep 120 snakes and 70 spiders plus hedgehogs, bald rats, lizards, geckos, cockroaches, frogs, cats and dogs inside their semi-detached house.
Geraint Hopkins, 68, and his wife Yolande live with the collection of animals at their home in Llanelli, south Wales.
The animal-loving husband explained: ‘I started off in the 1980s when the local ambulance station were trying to raise money for defibrillators.
‘My friend had snakes so I borrowed one of his and just started off with one snake in Llanelli.
‘We started earning quite a lot of money for charity using snakes in shop windows and people donating.’
People from the town centre came to recognise the unusual man with boas and pythons wrapped around his neck and head and he was dubbed ‘Geraint the Snakeman.’
But it wasn’t until Geraint met his wife Yolande in that their collection of serpents eventually grew.
Among the creatures they own are Burmese pythons, albino pythons, Macklot’s pythons, a Mexican red knee tarantula and a salmon pink bird eater – the third-largest tarantula in the world, which can deliver a pretty painful bite.
Geraint has been called out to collect snakes by people in the area and even police forces.
If the animals are well enough, he keeps and looks after them, but discourages people from buying them as pets.
He added: ‘You can never really trust a snake – they can often just have a really bad day.
‘Snakes are definitely my favourite – people don’t realise how amazing
they are. They are so intelligent. I just love being around them.’
The couple are both self-taught herpetologists and learned about the ability and skills necessary to handle and look after snakes through various books and documentaries.
It takes two hours each day to clean up after the snakes and costs thousands each year to feed all the animals in the house.
The couple also has security to take care of the animals when they’re not around and cameras all over the house to ensure everything is where it should be.
Over the years, Geraint has had some bumps and scratches as a result of handling the animals.
He continued: ‘One snake took the top of my thumb off and I get a few scratches and nips. I have been bitten but never by my own snakes.’
The OAP has cured dozens of people of their snake and spider phobias, but he ranks marrying Yolande as his greatest achievement.
Geraint said: ‘Meeting Yolande and marrying her has been my life highlight. And now we’ve got this place with hundreds of snakes and spiders and lizards – like you can see it’s like a zoo here.’
The pair – who share their love for snakes, animals, and collectible items – run a home with dogs barking, friendships between bald rats and cats, and venomous snakes and spiders taking residence in the back bedroom.
But the animals are well cared for and loved and, while the house may be noisy, there’s never a dull moment.
Geraint added: ‘I just love it all and Yolande loves it too – and who wants a boring life anyway?’
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