A German snake charmer has died after being bitten by a viper while teaching people to get over their fear of snakes and reptiles.

Dieter Zorn, 53, was attacked by a Aspic viper and died from a heart attack within minutes.

He was performing his Reptile Show in Faugeres, southern France, as part of a tour geared at helping people overcome their phobias.

The snake bit Zorn several times. He put it back in its container and then collapsed and died, local news website Midi Libre said.

Emergency services administered a blood-thinner to Zorn but were unable to save him.

He had worked with reptiles for 25 years. The mayor of La Redorte, Pierre-Henri Ilhe, said that while people in the town did not see Zorn often - he lived on the road much of the time - he was someone they liked.

Zorn's wife, Uschi Kallus, said he had suffered a rare allergic reaction. She added that he would not have wanted the snake blamed for his death.

She told The Local: "His ambition and his objective in life was to help people to conquer their fears about snakes and reptiles."

According to Zorn's website, the show was primarily one of education, with demonstrations and explanations about the animals.

"The public can get up close to different inoffensive snakes," the site says.

"Touching and holding, stroking, and carrying these harmless snakes is, for most people, unique and unforgettable. This experience helps us to get over unfounded fears and eliminate prejudices."