by Mahmoud Fouly
FAYOUM, Egypt, March 26 (Xinhua) -- At a scorpion farm in Fayoum province south of the Egyptian capital Cairo, dozens of labeled blue square plastic bowls with soft unclimbable sides, known as scorpion cages, are organized on shelves in a special room, with each containing about 20 male and female scorpions.
Hosting more than 3,000 scorpions, the farm is part of a project started by Egyptian youths to extract scorpion venom for both business and scientific research.
The scorpion farm in Fayoum is one of a few farms belonging to Cairo Venom, a company based in Cairo that started the business in 2015 with 100 scorpions until it has now about 60,000 ones.
Mohamed Boshta, Cairo Venom general manager, said that he studied the techniques and businesses related to raising scorpions and extracting their venom and started the business with a group of interested youth.
"This field is new in Egypt and we approached it on scientific bases after thorough study and research. Now we have local clients such as Sigma and Pharco pharmaceutical companies and we export scorpion venom to some foreign countries including Saudi Arabia, Denmark and Belgium," Boshta told Xinhua.
He added that the future of scorpion venom is promising in the light of ongoing and future scientific researches to use its amino acid in medicine production.
"We're currently doing researches on using scorpion venom to help cure some diseases such as anemia, rheumatoid and cancer and we're expecting to get soon an approval from the Health Ministry in this regard," the company chief revealed.
Boshta, who was stung by scorpions more than 80 times, reassured that a scorpion's sting is not too dangerous for a healthy person because the amount of venom that gets into a human body by a sting is maximum 0.02 mg.
In Fayoum farm, the brownish yellowish scorpions in the plastic bowls seemed quiet as a result of the repeated venom extraction from their bodies.
"The energy, strength and speed of scorpions gradually decrease after recurrent venom extraction. Therefore, we dispose of the scorpions after their venom extraction for six months," Ahmed al-Ashry, manager of Cairo Venom scorpion farms, told Xinhua.
The rare types of scorpions are sent back to their natural environments to be hunted again years later, while common and numerous types are smashed into powder to be used in making medical products or cosmetics, according to the farm manager.
After the venom is extracted from the scorpions, it is subjected to dry freezing to change it from liquid to powder.
"Among the requirements for the place of a scorpion farm is to have clean and fresh air and to be secure enough to prevent bugs from getting in, because pollution and bugs might spoil the extracted venom," Ashry added.
The base of the scorpion cages are covered with sand in summer and wheat bran in winter to provide scorpions with environment conditions similar to those they've come from.
The farm manager was assisted by two employees specialized while taking care of the scorpions and extracting their venom when due.
Mohamed Saeed, one of Ashry's assistants, explained that he holds the scorpion with a pair of forceps to milk it and subject it to a low electrical stimulation that doesn't hurt it but stimulates it to express its venom.
"Thus, the scorpion produces a tiny drop of venom from the tip of its tail, which is called the stinger or the Telson. I finally collect the venom in a capillary tube I hold in my other hand," Saeed told Xinhua inside the farm.
Ahmed Farghal, a partner and a financial manager in Cairo Venom, said that the company uses adult scorpions of the same type and the same place to have the same environment and the same amino acid of their proteins. "Otherwise, the produced venom will be invalid."
He said that the scientific research part of the project seeks to use scorpion venom in medicine to help Egypt and Egyptians instead of exporting it as venom and importing it later in the form of medicine.
Farghal explained that anyone interested can start a similar project with 1,000 scorpions whose cost is from 6,000 Egyptian pounds (347 U.S. dollars) to 10,000 pounds that can monthly produce 1 gram of dry venom ready for trade and use, whose price varies between 10,000 and 20,000 pounds in the Egyptian local market.
He noted that global companies sell the 1 gram of dry venom with international standards at 15,000 euros according to 2019 pricing.
"I have friends who joined our training courses on scorpion farming and started their own small farms," the man told Xinhua, stressing that the field is "new and promising" and Cairo Venom is ready to help the youth interested to start a similar project.