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Swampside story

Priyanka Sharma speaks to Robbie and Stephen Keszey, two brothers who like to play with snakes and crocodiles

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Trekking across the dangerous marshlands of central Florida, brothers and are on an unusual mission. They have to dig up an alligator’s nest and snatch the eggs. And more importantly, they need to do it in time, before the raccoons find the nest and eat the eggs. While older brother Robbie will snatch the eggs, Stephen will have to distract the “angry mama” who cusses and hisses at him. The deed needs to be done in minutes — after all, if angered, the alligator can move at the explosive speed of 30 miles an hour and trample the two brothers.

The second season of Discovery’s features many such close shaves as the dynamic duo play with slithering snakes, “mean” gators and at their family-owned — the largest venomous snake farm in Florida. The brothers import, export, captive breed, retail, wholesale and trade in reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates.

The show follows the clichéd form that most wildlife/adventure shows adopt — an element of danger with lots of warnings interspersed with humour from the hosts. What sets the show apart are the magnificent amphibians depicted not as poisonous animals, but “multi-faceted creatures”.

The chemistry between the brothers stands out. The story is as much theirs as it is of the animals. They are not your average know-it-all hosts that claim to flirt with danger. Robbie was fascinated with crocodiles and snakes as a child. “Crocs have seen dinosaurs come and go and they’re still here,” believes he. A former member of a rock band, his other passion is music. He spent years in tight pants, with his lips and nails painted a crimson red, he jokes. At ease around some of the world’s most dangerous reptiles, he even coos and cuddles some alligator hatchlings, referring to them as “cute little things”.

Stephen, a former bartender in New York, “would rather be drinking cocktails in Manhattan than battling crocs!” He moved to the farm to help his brother manage the 25-year-old business but had no idea what he was getting into. His job entailed distracting alligators by tapping their mouths with sticks, hunting wild hogs in darkness and packaging giant pythons to ship them halfway across the world. “Each day,” he admits, “was like being in the movie Jaws!” On the show, Stephen shrieks, yells and falls prey to his brother’s pranks. At one point, on encountering a mamba, he faints.

Business at the farm is good. After capturing the eggs, incubating them, Robbie sells each hatchling for around $49. Selling around 4,000 of them, he makes a quick profit. On the show a man calls him up to order a python and is willing to pay $2,000.

His clients include zoos, museums, schools and “anyone with a predilection and permit for owning gators!” The duo examines the habitat before going hunting. Upon catching one, they harvest the snake’s venom and sell it to medical research labs across the US.

The show begins on August 1 on channel and will air from Monday to Friday at 10 pm

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