• Four South Africans are competing in a global tarantula tournament via YouTube
  • They are putting up their best clips of their pet spiders eating food.
  • The videos are fang-tastic. 

It’s one of the most unusual knock-out tournaments you can imagine: a global fang-off between 64 arachnid fans and their pet tarantulas.

Called the Fatal Fang tournament, it showcases tarantula YouTubers putting up their best clips of their pet spider eating food. It kicked off on Sunday, 2 December, asking people to vote for their favourite feeding videos in a head-to-head competition.

The tournament was inspired by British-based bug blogger Sam Carver, who decided that an international feeding clip tournament would promote the hobby and debunk the myth that spiders are scary.

Four South Africans made the final cut, including nature conservationist and wildlife tour guide Liaan Lategan and his pet Mexican Red Leg Tarantula (Brachypelma emilia), Emilia.

Liaan Lategan holds the moulted skin of his pet Tarantula Emilia. Photo: Liaan Lategan.

“The most challenging thing about filming spiders when I feed them is to get just the right amount of lighting on them so it wouldn't disturb them and anticipating the attach and position of where it will happen,” said Lategan.

Much like the FIFA World Cup, the contestants were randomly drawn to compete against each other in pools. They will continue to battle it out until there is one ultimate winner. Voters have from Sunday to Friday each week to vote for their favourites.

The videos can be pre-recorded and each new round requires a new video. The spiders don’t seem to mind the extra attention and tasty tweezer-fed crickets.

“The most challenging thing about keeping spiders is the fact that they are extremely delicate, and they could easily get hurt and die. If they fall even a short distance, they could burst their abdomens and that would be the end of them,” said Lategan. 

Many exotic pets, including lizards, snakes and geckos, are sold to uninformed customers, who regret their purchase after. Emilia was almost one of those pets, having been bought from a misinformed pet store owner who couldn’t even identify its species and was feeding it the wrong food.

“She was kept in a tiny enclosure with no hide or water dish. She was given only mealworms as a staple diet and I just needed to get her out of there,” said Lategan.   

Emilia the Mexican Red Leg Tarantula (Brachypelma emilia). Photo Liaan Lategan

It is illegal to catch, transport and keep wild tarantula species from South Africa, called Baboon Spiders. Now technology is going a long way toward educating the public and South African’s about these misunderstood insects. 

“Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Reddit is a great way to get my videos out there, but Facebook is still the most effective way to share it,” said Lategan. “The South African Tarantula keepers Facebook group has more than 400 active members and way more than a few 1000 likes for the page. That is just one group, there's also a fantastic group called ‘Gauteng Arachnoculture cc’ that also have a rally active WhatsApp group where hints, tips and secrets are shared. Compared to the rest of the world, the South African Tarantula hobby is a fast growing one.”

The other South African contestants are Martin Browning (Martins Tank Talk), Victor Norman (Spidey Vee), and Ludwig Eksteen (A Bugmans Life). To follow the blow by blow action you can visit their Fatal Fang website and check the Round 1 action: 

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