He had been known for his way with venomous snakes. Pictures and videos of Abu Zarin Hussin show him taking selfies, exercising at the gym, working on his computer and watching television all with his pet cobra. He even kissed snakes on the mouth.
The 33-year-old Malaysian firefighter, who had earned the name the “snake whisperer”, died on Friday, a few days after he was bitten by a cobra. Hussin was rushed to a hospital on Monday after he was bitten in Bentong in the state of Pahang, according to Malaysian news outlet The Star Online.
It is unclear why the snake bit him.
Hussin, who chronicled his interactions with cobras on Facebook, was propelled to international internet fame after British tabloids reported – falsely – that he married his pet snake because he believed the serpent was his dead girlfriend reincarnated.
“You may hiss the bride! Man marries 10ft COBRA he believes is his reincarnated girlfriend,” said the headline of a Daily Mail story that was published in November 2016 and remains online.
The story referred to Hussin as an “unidentified husband” and “unidentified boyfriend”, while also misidentifying him as “Warranan Sarasalin from Kanchanaburi in Thailand”.
The tabloid also published several pictures with captions like: “He lost his girlfriend five years ago, but photos have shown he and his new wife are very happy together.”
The Daily Mirror also published the same false story, which has been deleted.
In an interview with The Star Online, Hussin said he was disappointed that the tabloid writers snatched pictures from his Facebook account and published false stories about him.
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As a firefighter for the Fire and Rescue Department of Malaysia, Hussin’s job involved catching snakes found in people’s homes and training his fellow firefighters.
He also kept snakes at his home for a year so he can observe and learn their behaviour, and then released them back to their natural habitat, he told The Star Online.
Malaysia is known for its venomous terrestrial snakes. At least 26 species have life-threatening bites.
“Snakes are really not difficult to handle. There are many false claims out there about snakes – that they are vicious or attack people,” he said.
Hussin said he inherited his skills from his father, whom he called a “snake charmer”, and started training with snakes in 2007.
Last year, he was a contestant on the Asia’s Got Talent television show, rattling judges and viewers by pulling out a large cobra on stage.
The dangerous performance involved bumping his nose against the reptile’s head but was not enough to convince the judges to advance him to the next round of the contest.
This week was not the first time Hussin had been bitten by a snake. A cobra bit him in 2015, placing him in a coma for two days.
Hussin was buried during a ceremony on Friday. Firefighters in uniform carried his body, neatly wrapped in white cloth, and placed it carefully in his final resting place.
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