Countries without snakes have always tended to bless their good fortune - but the Russian government has capitalised on the fact that poisonous snakes can also be helpful to man.
Countries without snakes have always tended to bless their good fortune - but the Russian government has capitalised on the fact that poisonous snakes can also be helpful to man. In fact poison is worth more than its weight in gold as an antidote to several common illnesses.
The snake venom is extracted at Russia's largest reptile centre at Frunze, the capital of Soviet Kirghizia near the Chinese border. It is a complicated business, and by the time the venom is in a usable form for medicinal purposes in a bottle or tube, each gram will have cost over 500 (approx. 1,000 U.S. dollars) - slightly more costly than gold.
A few years ago the centre's researchers and workers had to use tens of thousands of snakes to extract the necessary amount of serum. Now - with new methods - they find they can get more poison from only 8,000 serpents. The snakes themselves are sent to Frunze from all over the Soviet Union.
This year the Frunze centre will produce 920 grams of poison, 4.5 litres of liquid poison - millions of tubes and ampules of medical preparations. Snake serum from the centre has also provided Russia with a valuable export.
The poison is deadly -- but its preparations provide an effective antidote to arthritis, asthma and some nervous diseases as well as snake bites.