According to geology department of Dhaka University, 70 species of snakes are found in Bangladesh. Of them, 27 species are venomous
It is a given that snakes can be intimidating and scary, and people would want to get rid of them from one’s vicinity but these cold-blooded scaly reptiles can be economically beneficial too.
Recently, terrified village people in Rajshahi, Satkhira and Kushtia districts have killed over 240 cobras, mostly beating them to death after being found inside homes within rat holes.
As its monsoon, the venomous cobras are taking shelter inside the rat holes for both protection and easy food and given the comfort, they turn these holes into makeshift nests to lay eggs.
Wildlife experts have urged people to bring an end to the killing of the snakes. They said measures should be taken ahead of monsoon to preserve the shelters and breeding places.
They also opined that initiatives should be taken to promote snake farming as huge foreign currencies can be earned through export of snake venom.
However, in Bangladesh, one cannot farm snakes as its prohibited.
Experts said that though there are many species of snakes in Bangladesh, interested people are not being able to farm snakes commercially due to the prohibition on collection, preservation and manufacturing of snake venom.
But according to drug administration officials, some medicines are being produced in the country with snake venom in limited arrangements. The venom and the raw materials for the medicines are being imported from abroad.
Furthermore, university professors said though their institutions have the equipment needed for collecting and preserving snake venom, lack of initiatives from authorities concerned has not allowed them to start collection process.
Bangladesh has been exporting different life saving medicines made of snake venom and contributing to the economy but lack of scopes and expenses do not allow mass production.
Saikat Kumar Dhar, drug in-charge of the drug administration, told the Bangla Tribune: “Pharmaceutical company Incepta produces anti-venom but it imports the raw material from abroad.
“There is no alternative to import as all species of snakes are not found in Bangladesh.”
According to geology department of Dhaka University, 70 species of snakes are found in Bangladesh. Of them, 27 species are venomous.
Of the venomous species, 12 live in the Bay of Bengal while the rest 15 species are found almost everywhere in the country.
Among the deadly snakes, the venom of cobra which contains potassium cyanide is most expensive.
Professor Feroz Zaman of geology department of DU, said: “Our forest department has a livestock division but we do not have government farms for preservation and breeding of snakes.
“We can earn huge foreign currencies if the government allows snake farming. Various species of snakes are found in Bangladesh as the environment is favourable for snakes.”
He further said: “We know the techniques of catching snakes and preserving the venom. Our department has all the facilities but we do not have the permission.”
Terming the recent incidents of beating cobras to death unfortunate, Prof Feroz said: “Our ecosystem would be hampered if snakes are being killed like this.
“Rats would reign if there is no snake here and it would make our life miserable.”
Stressing the need of preserving snake venom, he said the patients of snakebites are treated with the medicine made of snake venom.
“We should have the system to preserve venom for producing necessary drugs,” he added.
However, ABM Faruk, professor of Medical technology department of Dhaka University, told the Bangla Tribune: “Snake venom is very expensive. As far as I know, no medicine is produced in Bangladesh using snake venom.
“The technology is also too costly and it needs huge investment. Therefore, the investors are not ready to put their money in the industry as the number of patients who need drugs made of snake venom are few.”
Shahab Uddin, deputy forest ranger of the forest department, told the Bangla Tribune that as per the Wildlife Protection Act 2012, the forest department would not allow anyone to maintain personal snake farms.
“However, the forest department has allowed some people to farm snakes but they are not permitted to export the venom,” he added.
Forest ranger Jahidul Kabir told Bangla Tribune: “Bangladesh has varieties of snakes. Snakes could bring economic benefits. But no mentionable initiative has so far been taken. We could not issue licence as no related law has been formulated yet.”
Mentioning that the formation of a law regarding snake farming is under process, he said: “We could legalise the farms being run under personal initiatives.”
This story was first published on the Bangla Tribune.