PETALING JAYA: Malaysian firefighter Abu Zarin Hussin received a rude shock last week when he found out that international news agencies claimed he had married his pet snake.
Abu Zarin, 31, who is attached to the Temerloh fire station, was featured in Internet portals from around the world as well as British tabloids The Daily Mirror and The Daily Mail.
The articles mistakenly identified him as a Thai man who had married his pet snake as he believed it was his dead girlfriend due to its "striking resemblance" to her.
Unfortunately, the images used were actually of Abu Zarin and his pet snake. And no, he is not married to it.
Instead, he keeps the snakes as part of his role in the Malaysian Fire and Rescue Department.
Abu Zarin conducts snake catching and training classes for firemen, who are often called up to capture the serpents by members of the public who find them in homes or public places.
"The pictures are of me. They used my photos and started making up stories, saying that I married a snake," he said.
"I just want to express my disappointment over the attitude of a handful of foreign journalists who acted in clear violation of journalistic ethics in publishing the news, especially since the pictures were clearly taken from my Facebook account," he told The Star Online on Thursday.
Abu Zarin explained that he kept snakes to better understand their nature and temperament.
"The snakes are with me so that I can observe their behaviour. Catching snakes are part of a fireman's duty. I am training other firemen how to handle and manage snakes. So that after they are caught, we can release them back into their natural habitat," he said, adding that he wanted to improve the current snake-catching courses.
The main goals of the courses were for firemen to get familiar with the species of snakes, especially the venomous ones and their bites, and how to capture them without killing them.
Abu Zarin said he did not keep the same snake all the time. When a new snake arrives, he releases the previous one back into the wild.
He added that he never keeps a snake for more than a year and currently has four snakes under his care.
"I started training with snakes in 2007. My interest stems from my father, who was a snake charmer. But my talent for it only surfaced when I joined the Fire and Rescue Department," he said.
"Snakes are really not difficult to handle. There are many false claims out there about snakes – that they are vicious or attack people.
"Before I joined the Fire and Rescue Department, I was afraid of snakes and would avoid them. But perhaps I inherited my talent from my father and now practise with him," he said.
Judging from the images on his Facebook account, Abu Zarin looks very comfortable with snakes – and they in turn appear to trust and are obedient to him.
Abu Zarin, who hails from Kelantan, documents his adventure with his pet snakes on the Facebook page Wira Penyelamat.