Sci-Tech

Zoo wants your help collecting deadly spiders

Would you offer to catch poisonous spiders in the name of science? The Australian Reptile Park hopes so.

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The poisonous Sydney funnel-web spider is milked for its venom.

Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

A zoo's request for the public's help capturing one of the world's deadliest spiders sounds more like a premise for a superhero origin story than a real call to action.

The Australian Reptile Park in Sydney hopes it can convince locals to catch and donate Atrax robustus, commonly known as Sydney funnel-web spiders, so they can be milked for their venom. Anti-venom -- a medication made from spider and snake venom that's used to treat venomous bites and stings -- is in short supply due to a run of spider bites, while funnel-web spider activity is on the rise, the park says.

According to the park's website, the Sydney funnel-web spider can reach up to 35 millimeters (1.4 inches) in length and prefers to live in burrows made in "shaded areas of well-vegetated private gardens."

The spiders are very aggressive, and their large fangs and acidic venom can make their bite extremely painful. If untreated, a major bite can cause death within an hour.

Catching venomous spiders is safe, as long precautions are followed, Tim Faulkner, the park's general manager, told Reuters. However, "only responsible adults should catch funnel webs to assist the program," the Australian Reptile Park stressed on its Facebook page.

If any brave Aussies plan to catch spiders for the Reptile Park's venom program, they should have pressure-immobilization bandages on hand, just in case. The park offers other spider safety tips such as "Do not walk about at night without footwear" and "Check shoes before putting them on."

There have only been 13 recorded deaths from funnel-web spider bites. That's a relatively low number compared with another creature with a higher chance of killing Australians -- horses.

Good luck to any potential spider hunters reading this.

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