03 March, 2021

The hunt for easy money from venom extraction may cause the extinction of some scorpion species


I guess many of you have seen reports in the media about the value of scorpion venom for research and that it is possible to earn millions of US$ on venom extraction. I get email inquires regularly from hopeful amateurs in Asia that want information about how to get scorpions and how to milk them.

This hunt for easy money may have an impact on the scorpion populations in many areas and may drive species to extinctions. A recent article by Alireza Zamani addresses this challenge and is well worth a read.

And for any money hungry scorpion hunters out there: There are serious doubts about the quality of the venom being extracted at amateur scorpion farms and most serious venom suppliers are probably not interested in purchasing amateur products. So leave the scorpions in nature and get rich in another way!

The pharmacological utility of various biochemical compounds in scorpion venom offers promise in several research fields but its potential economic value has placed pressure on scorpion populations already threatened by habitat destruction and overharvesting for the international trade in exotic pets. Since at least 2016, several countries in Africa and Asia reported an increase in the number of people investing in farms for maintaining scorpions and extracting (‘milking’) their venom for commercial use. In addition to serious doubts about the quality of the venom extracted at these farms, repeated collecting of wild specimens may denude an area of scorpions. Given estimates of a million species threatened with extinction over the next decade, unsustainable overexploitation remains a major driver of biodiversity loss. The amateur venom-extraction business has the potential to adversely affect scorpion biodiversity in several biologically rich but poorly documented countries, which calls for urgent action from governments, universities and scientific societies to enhance the conservation of local scorpions. The following activities should thus be initiated or expanded: faunistic surveys and developing national lists of endemic species, red-listing threatened and endangered species using the IUCN Red List categories and criteria, educating local communities, and ceasing to issue permits for the collection of scorpions for commercial exploitation of any kind.

Zamani A, Sääksjärvi IE, Prendini L. Amateur venom-extraction business may hasten extinction of scorpions. Arachnologische Mitteilungen. 2021;61:20-3.[Open Access]

Thanks to Jeroen Kooijman for sending me this article!

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