Snakes confiscated from the church of Snake Salvation pastor Andrew Hamblin in November will be used for student research, officials announced last week.
Tabernacle Church of God in Tennessee owned 53 poisonous snakes that they used during services. All of the snakes died or were euthanised by the Knoxville Zoo, reportedly because of the condition they were in when they were seized, WBIR reports.
East Tennessee State University professor Dr. Steven Wallace removed the dead snakes from the zoo's freezer, and transported them to the Gray Fossil Site of the University's Center of Excellence in Paleontology.
"We'll probably have students skin them and de-flesh them as much as possible," Dr. Wallace told WBIR. "It will be a learning experience. They can learn the soft tissue anatomy of the animal."
It will be a unique opportunity for the students as the church's collection contained copperheads, rattlesnakes, and other venomous species.
"It's not easy to get venomous snakes," Wallace explained. "We are typically going to get your standard garden variety snakes. It's one that someone might have killed in your back yard or it was run over by a car. So it's always good to get these things, they just are a lot harder to come by."
Zoo officials welcomed the outcome.
"They were never given a water bowl, they were never given enough humidity, and they were never even offered food," Curator of Herpetology Michael Ogle said of the snakes' living conditions when they were seized. "These older animals, you could tell they were freshly wild caught as well.
"It does give a scientific use for them. It gives them a purpose. It gives them a meaning that they are going to the Gray Fossil Museum and they are going to have a purpose in teaching folks for decades to come."
Pastor Hamblin was cited last year for possessing dangerous animals, but a grand jury declined to pursue further charges.