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19 May 1950 |
Pretoria, South Africa
|Occupation||Herpetologist, Wildlife photographer|
Austin Stevens (born 19 May 1950) is a South African-born herpetologist, wildlife photographer, film maker and author best known for hosting a series of snake documentaries, best known of which is Austin Stevens: Most Dangerous. He has been compared to Australian wildlife expert Steve Irwin.
Austin Stevens was born in Pretoria, South Africa and became interested in snakes at the age of 12. By the time he finished school, his reptile 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 30s; his father owned a small typewriter repair business. He traces his adventurous streak back to his grandfather from Bristol, England—also named Austin James Stevens—part founder of the AJS Motorbike Corporation, but later took the boat to Africa.
After leaving the army
Stevens got heavily into motorcycles and gangs and spent years as a self-described "loose cannon". He gave up motorcycles in 1974 after a near- fatal accident during a race. What saved him, he says, was being offered a job at the Transvaal Snake Park, near Johannesburg, which rekindled his passion for wildlife. He became the curator of reptiles at the Transvaal Snake Park, where he spent six years undergoing hands-on training to become a fully qualified herpetologist.
Photographer and film maker
After leaving the Transvaal Snake Park, he took up a position as Curator of Herpetology at the Nordharzer Schlangenfarm in Germany, a park which he helped design and bring into operation before returning to Africa, 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 and dangerous snakes in Africa. On the 96th day, he was bitten by a cobra, but to many people's amazement he refused to leave the cage and was instead treated in the cage. Although very sick from the snakebite, he completed the 107 days and beat the existing Guinness World Record (documented in the Guinness Book of Animal Records). His world record has never been duplicated nor broken, though there have been a number of other attempts at similar records (records attempted with different conditions and snakes to Stevens' record.) From that experience, Austin authored a book entitled Snakes in my Bed.
Thereafter, Austin moved to Namibia 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 is also known as Austin Stevens: Most Dangerous on Animal Planet, and Austin Stevens Adventures broadcast on Animal Planet and five in the United Kingdom. His show was also presented in high definition on HDNet under the title Austin Stevens Adventures in the U.S. in the fall of 2009 . His latest book The Last Snake Man was published in the UK by Noir Publishing .
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 many of the early episodes he is seen using the Canon EOS 50D and later the Canon 300D. In the second season, he uses the Samsung GX-10, which he uses with both Samsung and Pentax lenses. He also uses a Samsung Pro815 and an unspecified Sony Cybershot model for general use.
In December 2007, Austin Stevens married his second wife Amy, 34 years his junior, a young python keeper from Australia. 
Some of his credits:
- Dragons Of the Namib, a documentary about the life of the Namaqua Chameleon. 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.
- Austin takes wildlife stock photographs for Animals Animals/Earth Scenes .
- He is a media donor on ARKive .
- Snakes In My Bed (Penguin 1992)
- The Last Snake Man (Noir Publishing 2007) ISBN 978-0-9536564-6-2
- Snake Bite – In Search Of The King Cobra (Go Entertain 2005)
- Austin Stevens: Snakemaster (first three episodes)
- Austin Stevens on Twitter
- Austin Steven's Official Website
- Austin Stevens (II) at the Internet Movie Database
- Austin Stevens: Snakemaster Animal Planet fan site
- Noir Publishing