22 April, 2013

The impact on Rhopalurus junecus populations in Cuba due to the "miracle drug"

The dark morph of Cubas blue scorpion, Rhopalurus junceus. Photo: Roland Teruel (C).

Last week I blogged about a newspaper article discussing the venom of the Cuban scorpion Rhopalurus junceus (Herbst, 1800) as a miracle drug for some serious cancer forms. After reading the article I thought about how the demand for this new drug has impacted on the populations of this (so far) common scorpion in Cuba. I asked Cuban scorpion expert Rolando Teruel about this and here is his answer:

"Starting about a decade ago, a government research program on the medical potential of the venom of R. junceus has spread all over Cuba. In order to obtain the amounts of venom needed, intensive captures of thousands of individuals are made all across the entire distribution area of the scorpion. But further, in several localities the native people collect indiscriminately as many scorpions as they can for personal use or illegal sale in the black market. The sum of both factors has impacted negatively on the abundance of this species and has depleted its populations drastically in many places of Matanzas, Cienfuegos, Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo provinces, becoming a death threat to their survival (Cao, 2002; R. Teruel & L. F. de Armas, unpublished data)".

This is a quote from Teruel & Armas (2012), translated from Spanish by Rolando Teruel. As you can see, the large demand for Rhopalurus venom is now a threat to the species on Cuba. Hopefully, there will be measures controlling the exploitation of wild caught Rhopalurus on Cuba. 

Teruel R, de Armas LF. Redescripcion de Rhopalurus junceus (Herbst 1800) (Scorpiones: Buthidae). Boletin de la SEA. 2012 (50):153-74.

Thanks to Dr. Rolando Teruel for sharing his insight with The Scorpion Files! 

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