Stoned on snake venom from Gods own country
news Friday, April 10, 2015 - 05:30
In January 2012, Solano Reyes Jimmy Vincent, an Ecuador national, was arrested at the Cochin International Airport in Kerala with 15 condoms filled with a suspicious looking yellow coloured liquid. The liquid was later found out to be snake venom and the incident became the first recorded customs seizure of snake venom in the state. In the subsequent years, there has been a considerable increase in the smuggling and peddling of snake venom in Kerala, say officials. The vigilance wing of the forest department has seized snake venoms in the state on several occasions when it conducted raids in the past few years. It is following these incidents that officials understood there is an international racket behind venom smuggling and trafficking in the state. “Just last week three people were arrested for the possession of two snakes. Later during questioning, they confessed that they had caught snakes for their venom,” says Fen Antony, Ernakulam Divisional Forest Officer says (DFO). Antony also added that every month at least one case of venom trafficking is being reported from the either of 14 districts of Kerala. Why is snake venom trafficked? What is it used for? According to forest officials, one litre of venom can fetch as high as Rs 2 crore in the international market. Snake venom is in huge demand among drug addicts in the country, as well as abroad. Apparently, the venom can give a double high as compared to cannabis and it is also used along with narcotic substances to get that extra kick. “It seems that snake venom gives a tremendous high and even works well for long-term drug addicts,” says Amandeep Kaur, Kozhikode District Forest Officer. How is the venom used? Some international reports state that the venom is used in two different ways- by mixing it with other substances and by taking it through direct bites from the snakes. Kollam district Excise Circle Inspector B. Suresh recalls a shocking incident which occurred last August. “I arrested a 19-year-boy in August last year for carrying ganja (marijuana) with him. During the questioning session he confessed that when he did not get the high from regular drugs, he got himself bitten by snakes to get the high,” he says. Though bites from venomous snakes can prove fatal, a different technique is used to take it as a drug without letting the venom harm oneself. “I came to know that a filter is used so that when the snake bites only a small drop of venom enters the user’s body. This way the venom won’t result in death,” Suresh added. The teen also told Suresh often snakes are stored in small bottles for this very purpose and that if the bite is taken under the tongue, the effect lasts much longer. Representational picture A forest official from the Ernakulam division, who conducted an enquiry into the matter, found that one snake bite costs around Rs 2500. “There are agents who keep such snakes and charge the customers on the basis of each bite. The customers are mainly drug addicts who are not satisfied with other drugs,” said the official. Fen Antony says that venom from poisonous snakes such as the cobra and viper are in high demand in international market. “They usually cut the fangs of the snakes and extract the venom. It won’t kill the snake, but it is a crime according to the wild life law,” Antony says. How dangerous is the venom? Doctors opine that this particular usage can also be called “slow poisoning,” as it doesn’t kill the user in the first shot, but still affects the body in a harmful way. “The use of venom can result in a slow death. In such cases, the poison enters the body very slowly. However, even this is highly dangerous. It can kill a person in stages. It could first affect the eyes, and later go on to paralyze the body,” says Dr. Jagadeesh, senior officer in the State Directorate of Health Service.  
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