WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT Therapist Ariane believes the vampire-style feeds could even extend his lifespan.
A therapist who bonds with his three giant pet leeches by letting them suck his blood once a month, claims the vampire-style feeding sessions have improved his health and could even extend his lifespan.
Placing the three predatory worms he calls his "children" on his left arm, Ariane Khomjani, 22, watches them grow up to 15 inches long, as they gorge on his blood – knowing they are capable of drinking 10 times their own body weight.
Letting them out of their aquarium, to roam freely around his bedroom at his family home in Walnut Creek, California, USA, when he is home, Ariane regularly strokes the pets, which he adores, saying: "People are only scared of what they don't understand."
Warning graphic image: Ariane bonds with his pet leeches by letting them suck his blood
"In fact, there are so many medicinal uses to leech feeding that we in the West are now only starting to realize."
"Having leeches suck your blood can help with circulation, arthritis, complexion and even extend your lifespan."
"I play a lot of tennis and if ever I have any soreness in my arms, I put a leech on and the pain goes away – it's incredible."
Calling his Asian buffalo leeches – native to the swamps of southern India – Laera, Liidra and Lykra, they are the latest proud addition to Ariane's exotic pet collection, which includes four eight-foot anaconda snakes and a carnivorous Galapagos centipede called Cax.
His taste for slithery companions also brought him human love, after his student girlfriend Mackenzie Lynn, 18, spotted his snake and leech-themed Instagram page and got in touch.
Speaking fondly of Mackenzie, who shares his fascination for tropical creatures, he continued:
"It's really cool to meet a girl who is as into reptiles as I am – you really don't meet many girls who are like that."
Ariane and one of his pet snakes (Collect/PA Real Life)
Keen to dispel negative perceptions of slippery animals, Ariane insists his peculiar pets regard him as a parent.
"People often say to me that keeping these sorts of pets is dangerous, that I should watch out because one day the snakes might start sizing me up, or the leeches might bleed me dry."
"But, once they become comfortable with you, they're not dangerous at all. I've raised them all since they were small enough to wrap around my little finger and they mean a lot to me, like they are my kids."
Leeches on Ariane's face (Collect/PA Real Life)
Keeping various smaller reptiles and insects, like snakes, scorpions and lizards at his parents' house throughout his teens, they were delighted that he took such an avid interest in zoology.
As a youngster, Ariane even went to educational sideshows around his home state, where collectors would show off their pets.
"One time, at one of these shows, I met a guy who had an anaconda. It was the first time I had seen one and I thought it was amazing, so I started researching them and from then on dreamed about having one of my own."
Ariane bonds with his pet leeches by letting them suck his blood
Gaining experience with smaller bull snakes, Ariane's dreams were realized when, aged 17, he bought his first yellow anaconda, Annie, for $300 later acquiring three more, Allie, Amy and Ana.
But the collector's thirst for the exotic creatures was not entirely quenched until he bought his giant leeches.
After seeing a YouTube video of a giant buffalo leech sucking a man's blood, it became his mission to own some.
Ariane also has eight-foot anaconda snakes (Collect/PA Real Life)
"I saw this thing and thought, 'Can that be real? And if it is, I want one!'" he said.
Buying three baby leeches from a dealer in Holland for $60 dollars each, Ariane soon began feeding them with his own blood, to make them grow as fast as possible.
"I've tried all sorts of places on my legs and arms," said Ariane, who feeds his snakes with frozen rats, which he buys in bulk.
One of Ariane's anaconda snakes (Collect/PA Real Life)
"Now I usually just do my left arm, because they've got used to feeding there."
"The initial bite, when they are attaching themselves to you, can hurt. It feels a bit like thousands of tiny needles pricking your skin. But once they're on, it feels fine and there's a very relieving sensation to it."
Ariane typically allows his leeches to suck up a pint of his blood – roughly a tenth of the amount held within an average person's body – at each mealtime.
Ariane with his snakes at home (Collect/PA Real Life)
As they feed, he watched them inflate like water balloons, growing by up to 15 inches, when they are full.
Singing their virtues as the "perfect pets," he said:
"Having a snake or a leech is not like having a dog or a cat because they don't actively seek your affection."
"But I'm at a stage with them now where they feel completely happy with me being around them and don't feel threatened by me. That's the highest form of respect you can have from them."
"Some people might think it's weird keeping these sorts of pets, because they think of them as scary or creepy."
"But I always say to them, 'Before you get scared by animals, find out what they're really about – and you never know, you might like them.'"
A version of this article originally appeared on Press Association.