Takacs usually travels solo with only a backpack, camera bag, and a tissue-collecting kit, often piloting small planes or riding camels to reach remote destinations. His quest for venomous creatures has taken him to 133 countries. The expeditions are never uneventful.
One of his first, as a teen, landed him in a Bulgarian military jail near the Greek border. He has used military escort against pirates while diving for sea snakes in the Philippines; helicopter evacuation from civil war in Laos; dodged stampeding elephants in the jungles of Congo; survived his due number of bites by an assortment of venomous vipers and venom spewed in his face by a spitting cobra. Repeated exposure made Takacs allergic to snake venom, snake antivenom, and snake saliva. Yet he doesn't wear much protective gear. "Gloves limit my fine-motor movement, and I need that," he said. I only wear gloves underwater when catching sea snakes. This is the norm in this business."
"Most of this is fun as long as you remain in control," he says.
He is concerned however, about the loss of biodiversity. "Snakes are not charismatic animals to most people," he admitted. But if you find yourself facing a heart attack, and a drug from viper venom could save your life, "imagine if that snake had gone extinct, that drug wouldn't exist. Once we've erased something that evolved over millions of years, there's no way back."
The other Emerging Explorers are environmental scientist Saleem H. Ali; mobile technology innovator Ken Banks; wildlife biologist Aparajita Datta; agroecologist Jerry Glover; bioarchaeologist Christine Lee; research scientist and engineer Albert Yu-Min Lin; paleontologist Bolortsetseg Minjin; educator and activist Kakenya Ntaiya; electrical engineer Aydogan Ozcan; musician and activist Feliciano dos Santos
|Contact: John Easton|
University of Chicago Medical Center