July 13, 2018

Chinese snake milkers make $3m selling deadly venom to pharma companies

As the market for antivenom grows, rural venom farmers are cashing in on their snake farms.

Snake farmers in the tiny Chinese village of Zisiqiao make up to $3m a year by selling snake venom harvested from millions of deadly reptiles, reported the South China Morning Post

These farmers sell the profitable poison to large pharmaceutical companies that need the deadly snake juice.

Why do pharma companies need snake venom?

Pharmaceutical companies use real snake venom that is ‘milked’ from live snakes to produce the antivenom that treats potentially lethal snakebites.

The number of people bitten by venomous snakes each year is only increasing from the current 2.7m annually, and that means pharma companies are upping their research and development of antivenom. 

The market for antivenom is expected to rise to $2.95B by 2025, and with it, the demand for venom. 

If you’re hard up for some dollars, go milk a snake

Since snake venom is hard to find and harder to (safely) harvest, communities with lots of scaly squatters reap the financial benefits (a single gram of snake venom is worth around $750).

Since commercial snake farmers can raise millions of snakes at a time, the venom business can reshape local economies. The village of Zisiqiao has a population of 600 people — but, thanks to its 3m serpents, its snake farms generate $12m annually.

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