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Austin Stevens

Austin Stevens

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Austin James Stevens (born 19 May 1950) is a South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

n-born herpetologist and wildlife
Wildlife
Wildlife includes all non-domesticated plants, animals and other organisms. Domesticating wild plant and animal species for human benefit has occurred many times all over the planet, and has a major impact on the environment, both positive and negative....

 photographer best known for hosting a series of snake documentaries. Austin is also the author of 2 books.

Biography


Austin Stevens was born in Pretoria
Pretoria
Pretoria is a city located in the northern part of Gauteng Province, South Africa. It is one of the country's three capital cities, serving as the executive and de facto national capital; the others are Cape Town, the legislative capital, and Bloemfontein, the judicial capital.Pretoria is...

, South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 and became interested in snakes at the age of 12. By the time he finished school, his reptile
Reptile
Reptiles are members of a class of air-breathing, ectothermic vertebrates which are characterized by laying shelled eggs , and having skin covered in scales and/or scutes. They are tetrapods, either having four limbs or being descended from four-limbed ancestors...

 collection included some of the most exotic and venomous species in the world.

His mother lost a lung in a car accident as a girl, was often ill, and died when Stevens was in his thirties; his father owned a small typewriter repair business. He traces his adventurous streak back to his grandfather from Bristol
Bristol
Bristol is a city, unitary authority area and ceremonial county in South West England, with an estimated population of 433,100 for the unitary authority in 2009, and a surrounding Larger Urban Zone with an estimated 1,070,000 residents in 2007...

, England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

—also named Austin James Stevens—part founder of the AJS Motorbike Corporation
AJS
AJS was the name used for cars and motorcycles made by the Wolverhampton, England, company A. J. Stevens & Co. Ltd, from 1909 to 1931, by then holding 117 motorcycle world records, and after the firm was sold the name continued to be used by Matchless, Associated Motorcycles and Norton-Villiers on...

, but later took the boat to Africa.

After leaving the army


Austin got heavily into motorbikes and motorbike gangs and spent years riding around being a self described "loose cannon". He gave up the world of motorbikes in 1974 after a disastrous near fatal accident during a race. What saved him, he says, was being offered a job at the Transvaal
Transvaal Province
Transvaal Province was a province of the Union of South Africa from 1910 to 1961, and of its successor, the Republic of South Africa, from 1961 until the end of apartheid in 1994 when a new constitution subdivided it.-History:...

 Snake Park, near Johannesburg
Johannesburg
Johannesburg also known as Jozi, Jo'burg or Egoli, is the largest city in South Africa, by population. Johannesburg is the provincial capital of Gauteng, the wealthiest province in South Africa, having the largest economy of any metropolitan region in Sub-Saharan Africa...

, which rekindled his passion for wildlife. Austin took up the position as curator
Curator
A curator is a manager or overseer. Traditionally, a curator or keeper of a cultural heritage institution is a content specialist responsible for an institution's collections and involved with the interpretation of heritage material...

 of reptiles at the Transvaal Snake Park, where he spent the six years undergoing hands-on training to become a fully qualified herpetologist.

Photographer and film maker


After Austin left the Transvaal Snake Park he took up a position as Curator of Herpetology at the Nordharzer Schlangenfarm in Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, a park which he helped design and bring into operation before later again returning to Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

, where he took up the position as Curator of Reptiles at the Hartebeespoort Dam Snake and Animal Park. In an effort to generate funds and public interest in the plight of African gorillas, Austin set a record by spending 107 days and nights in a cage with 36 of the most venomous
Venomous snake
"Poisonous snake" redirects here. For true poisonous snakes, see Rhabdophis.Venomous snakes are snakes which have venom glands and specialized teeth for the injection of venom...

 and dangerous snakes in Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

. On the 96th day, he was bitten by a cobra
Cobra
Cobra is a venomous snake belonging to the family Elapidae. However, not all snakes commonly referred to as cobras are of the same genus, or even of the same family. The name is short for cobra capo or capa Snake, which is Portuguese for "snake with hood", or "hood-snake"...

, but to many people's amazement he refused to leave the cage and was instead treated in the cage. Although he was very sick at that time, Austin completed the 107 days and beat the existing Guinness World Record (documented in the Guinness Book of Animal Records). This world record has never been duplicated or broken, though there have been a number of other attempts at similar records (records attempted with different conditions and snakes to Austin's record.) From this experience, Austin authored a book entitled Snakes in my Bed.

Thereafter, Austin moved to Namibia
Namibia
Namibia, officially the Republic of Namibia , is a country in southern Africa whose western border is the Atlantic Ocean. It shares land borders with Angola and Zambia to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. It gained independence from South Africa on 21 March...

 where he became involved in wildlife photography and film making.

Nowadays Austin's career in herpetology includes presenting a series of TV programmes about reptiles and other wild animals. The main programme Austin Stevens: Snakemaster
Austin Stevens: Snakemaster
Austin Stevens: Snakemaster also known as Austin Stevens: Most Dangerous and Austin Stevens Adventures in some countries, is a regular airing nature series hosted by Austin Stevens that is broadcast on Animal Planet and five...

is also known as Austin Stevens: Most Dangerous on Animal Planet
Animal Planet
Animal Planet is an American cable tv specialty channel that launched on October 1, 1996. It is distributed by Discovery Communications. A high-definition simulcast of the channel launched on September 1, 2007.-History:...

, and Austin Stevens Adventures broadcast on Animal Planet
Animal Planet
Animal Planet is an American cable tv specialty channel that launched on October 1, 1996. It is distributed by Discovery Communications. A high-definition simulcast of the channel launched on September 1, 2007.-History:...

 and five in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

. His show show was also presented in high definition
High-definition television
High-definition television is video that has resolution substantially higher than that of traditional television systems . HDTV has one or two million pixels per frame, roughly five times that of SD...

 on HDNet under the title Austin Stevens Adventures in the U.S. in the fall of 2009 http://www.hd.net/affAustinStevens.html. His latest book The Last Snake Man was published in the UK by Noir Publishing http://www.noirpublishing.co.uk/wildlife.htm.

Near the end of 2008, Stevens launched his own official website www.austinstevens.net and in March 2011 he launched his own Twitter page under the username 'AustinSnakeman.' Stevens has warned his fans of impostors on the internet and stated that he does not have a Facebook page.

Stevens never received any formal photography training, and says he does not have a large collection of camera gear, preferring to keep his kit compact. He describes himself as a 'Canon fan' who has used various brands of cameras since the 1970s. In some "Adventures" episodes he is seen using a Samsung GX-10, which he says he uses with both Samsung
Samsung
The Samsung Group is a South Korean multinational conglomerate corporation headquartered in Samsung Town, Seoul, South Korea...

 and Pentax
Pentax
Pentax is a brand name used by Hoya Corporation for its medical-related products & services and Pentax Ricoh Imaging Company for cameras, sport optics , etc. Hoya purchased and merged with the Japanese optics company on March 31, 2008. Hoya's Pentax imaging business was sold to Ricoh Company, Ltd...

 lenses. He also uses a Samsung Pro815 and an unspecified Sony Cybershot model for general use.

Personal life


Stevens divides his time between Namibia to Australia. Stevens stays fit and sharp by practising martial arts
Martial arts
Martial arts are extensive systems of codified practices and traditions of combat, practiced for a variety of reasons, including self-defense, competition, physical health and fitness, as well as mental and spiritual development....

, in particular, nunchaku
Nunchaku
is a traditional Okinawan weapon consisting of two sticks connected at their ends with a short chain or rope.-Etymology:The Japanese word nunchaku is the Kun'yomi reading of the Kanji term for a traditional Chinese two section staff....

. He claims it keeps his reflexes heightened when working with venomous snake
Venomous snake
"Poisonous snake" redirects here. For true poisonous snakes, see Rhabdophis.Venomous snakes are snakes which have venom glands and specialized teeth for the injection of venom...

s.

In December 2007, Austin Stevens married his second wife Amy, 34 years his junior, a young python keeper from Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/driving/features/article4176470.ece

He has a passion for cars, especially the Mazda
Mazda
is a Japanese automotive manufacturer based in Fuchū, Aki District, Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan.In 2007, Mazda produced almost 1.3 million vehicles for global sales...

 RX series. Stevens's latest acquisition is a 2.6 litre Mazda pickup truck
Pickup truck
A pickup truck is a light motor vehicle with an open-top rear cargo area .-Definition:...

, adapted for bush travel.

Works


Some of his credits:
  • Dragons Of the Namib, a documentary about the life of the Namaqua Chameleon
    Namaqua Chameleon
    The Namaqua Chameleon is a ground living lizard found in the Namib Desert of Namibia and southern Angola.-Survival Techniques:...

    . Listed as one of the Producers and Director of Photography.
  • Africa's Deadliest Dozen, a documentary about the venomous snakes of Africa. Listed as Cinematographer.
  • Die Natur der Schlange (German: The Nature of Snakes), a 1997 German Documentary on snakes, aired on ZDF
    ZDF
    Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen , ZDF, is a public-service German television broadcaster based in Mainz . It is run as an independent non-profit institution, which was founded by the German federal states . The ZDF is financed by television licence fees called GEZ and advertising revenues...

    .

  • Austin takes wildlife stock photographs for Animals Animals/Earth Scenes http://www.animalsanimals.com/index.asp.
  • He is a media donor on ARKive
    ARKive
    ARKive is a global initiative with the mission of "promoting the conservation of the world's threatened species, through the power of wildlife imagery", which it does by locating and gathering films, photographs and audio recordings of the world's species into a centralised digital archive. Its...

    http://www.arkive.org/donors/a3.html.


Books:
  • Snakes In My Bed (Penguin 1992)
  • The Last Snake Man (Noir Publishing 2007) ISBN 978-0953656462


DVDS:
  • Snake Bite - In Search Of The King Cobra (Go Entertain 2005)
  • Austin Stevens: Snakemaster (first three episodes)

External links