AL AIN // Screams rang out yesterday as daredevil reptile expert Brady Barr showed more than 100 schoolchildren some of the scariest bits from his Dangerous EncountersTV show.
American Dr Barr, 49, is known for catching crocodiles, giant snakes and other potentially lethal animals. Some of the youngsters, who were aged between 8 and 10, watched open-mouthed as he showed a clip in which he dressed up in a crocodile suit and attached a data-collecting device to a real croc.
There were plenty of "oohs" as he presented a series of slides of massive and deadly anacondas and pythons. But the biggest reaction came when, in another video, a boa constrictor turned round and bit Dr Barr on the face, though on this occasion there were a few unkind laughs among the screams. Afterwards some of the children, who were from six schools in Al Ain, admitted that this had been their favourite moment.
The noise reached another crescendo when, at the end of the show at Al Ain Zoo, Dr Barr disappeared from view and then returned with the same type of snake coiled around his arm.
"Snakes play an important role in the local environment," he told the children. "If you ever see a snake be thankful that you're seeing it and then just back away. Don't harm it, don't ever try to pick up a snake."
Shad Yousf, 10, from Emirates Private School, said: "I was scared of the snake, I wouldn't like to have it wrapped around me."
Abrar Hafiz, also 10 and from the same school, was less easily frightened. She said: "I loved the animals so much I'm going to ask my dad to buy for me all the animals."
Dr Barr's trip to the UAE coincided with the screening of the sixth series of Dangerous Encounters on the National Geographic Abu Dhabi channel, part of Abu Dhabi Media which also owns The National.
In one of the episodes he catches a hippopotamus, the animal that he regards as the most dangerous of all. In another he traps a man-eating Nile crocodile that had killed 23 people in Uganda and relocates it to a wildlife reserve.
He said he planned to return to the UAE with a camera crew to shoot scenes for a future series.
"At some point I will be back here and we will be filming something," he added. "I'd love to get out into the desert and interact with some of the snakes there.
"This is such a unique desert ecosystem and you get some fantastic snakes. It's an ecosystem I haven't spent a lot of time in so I'd be really keen to get out there and spend some time and see some of these snakes."
The show is famous for its dramatic scenes where crocodile specialist Dr Barr gets up close with some of the world's most dangerous animals - and he bears the scars of some of these meetings to this day. A clip of him being bitten by a 12-foot python in a cave in Indonesia has attracted nearly 1.3 million hits on YouTube.
Dr Barr and his wife Mei Len have two children, Isabella, 8, and Braxton, 4, and the family lives surrounded by pets in Washington DC. Though he appears fearless on screen, this is far from the case.
"I'm scared on a daily basis, I think it's a good thing. I often tell people, including my wife, that the day I stop being afraid is the day I've got to get out of this business, because I'm going to die. Being scared keeps you focused and keeps you from getting complacent.
"I know what these animals are capable of, I've had friends and colleagues killed by these animals that I love, and I don't want that to be me."
Dangerous Encounters can be seen at 8.50pm every Tuesday on National Geographic Abu Dhabi.