Kevin Dai looks mighty pleased as he holds aloft some of his precious snakes so I can get a closer glimpse. "Precious" yes. Snakes, scorpions and spiders from his farms take him smiling all the way to the bank. Kevin Dai is dangerously rich!
- Million Dollar Snakes
- Cobra Venom Dry Powder
- Kevin Dai
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Owner of Benjamin Agriculture Biotechnology Ltd, Kevin Dai has 3 big snake farms at different locations in China. In an interesting chat with Medindia's reporter, he shared how snake farming is lucrative business - locally he sells snake meat for food, snake skin to make traditional Chinese musical instruments and other snake products for use in Chinese medicine. His company exports 'snake venom dry powder' 'scorpion venom dry powder' and 'spider venom dry powder' to countries like Korea, Australia and the US.
AdvertisementSnake farming is big business in China now, with an increasing global demand for snake meat and snake products that are widely used in traditional medicine and for research purposes to cure diseases. Successful snake breeding techniques researched and perfected by small time farmers have contributed to a booming industry in China earning millions of dollars for people who live dangerously, work hard at breeding innumerable varieties of snakes, scorpions and spiders that yield some most sought-after venom.
Thilaka Ravi: How did you get interested in this dangerous business of snake farming?
Kevin Dai: When I was a child I've seen my neighbor capture and breed snakes. At that time, I was curious about wild animals and didn't know that snakes could be dangerous. It was fascinating to see him working with snakes. Also, I learnt at my very young age that my neighbor was making good money by selling the snakes to support his family. That made a big impact and when I grew up I decided that I would pursue my interest in snakes and make it my business venture. Now I have farms in Zhejiang Province, Jiangxi province and Guangxi province. However my corporate sales office is at Xintian Road 318 Xintian village Fuyongtown, Shenzhen City at Guandong province.
I have followed meticulous methods from research on breeding snakes, I know how to select good female snakes and how to incubate eggs to improve survival rates. I give them a good diet of chicken, fish and chopped vegetables.
Thilaka Ravi: What kind of training did you take to handle these snakes?
Kevin Dai: Of course, it does need a lot training to breed snakes in a farm. First of all, we have to overcome the fear of snakes. To get used to snakes, we first catch a snake in the bag/cage, and then we cautiously touch it with our hands so that we don't worry we will be bitten by a snake. As time goes by and with constant practice we are not so afraid of snakes.
Secondly, we take certain precaution. Before we go close to snakes, every staff member has to wash hands first, especially if the hands just touched any meat. If not, the snake will sense the smell of meat and bite you as food, by mistake. We insist that staff wear special gloves to prevent snakebites.
Thilaka Ravi: Snake farming is big business in China. How do you market your products? To which countries do you export your products?
Kevin Dai: I want to say it is not difficult to sell snake products. It is a seller's market. We use the Internet to contact buyers and so we can sell our products all over the world. We also sell scorpion venom to many overseas customers. Scorpions in our farm yield 50-100 gms of venom every day.
So far, our snake products have been exported to many places. We sell snake venom powder to the United States, Saudi Arabia and South Korea. Snake venom powder is used in the manufacture of anti-venom serum, health products and beauty products. Last month, some Australian buyers approached us and wanted to buy sea snake venom powder, but we don't deal with aquaculture of sea snakes.
Thilaka Ravi: Do you have a doctor in the farm to handle emergencies? Or do you go to a hospital nearby? Do your workers get bitten when extracting venom? How do you deal with this?
Kevin Dai: A farm owner is the best doctor because he has bred snakes for more than 30 years at least and he can deal with emergency treatment, including snakebites. When we are bitten by a snake we know the emergency treatment-we need to flush the wound using tap water and take medicine. If a deadly snake bites we rush to the hospital for an injection of anti-venom medicine.
Thilaka Ravi: Which venom is your highest selling product? Why?
Kevin Dai: Deinagkistrodon acutus (Chinese moccasin/sharp nosed viper) venom dry powder and cobra venom dry powder are our highest selling products. The two kinds of snakes can secrete more snake venom than others. The venom is said to cure tumor, cancer, dissolve thrombus, and is used in the treatment of hemorrhage among other ailments.
Thilaka Ravi: Do you sell snakes for food too? What varieties?
Kevin Dai: Yes, we sell snakes like cobra and Ptyas mucosus (Oriental ratsnake) for food, mostly in local restaurants and sometimes abroad too. Snake soup is a delicacy and snake wine is in demand for its medicinal properties. Apart from using snake products in food, research and traditional Chinese medical/health products and beauty products, we make musical instruments, bags and hats and belts from snake skin.
As we say goodbye, Kevin Dai gently makes his way through the multitude of snakes in vats, bins and cages. He is so used to his snakes that he says he can spot the poisonous ones with ease. But all those twisting, slithering, snakes coiled together in bunches and glistening in the bright afternoon sun looked all the same to me-frightening!
A snake is revered as a "little dragon" in China-a country with a strong snake culture where every part of the snake is precious. Though there is no scientific proof about the health benefits of snake food supplements, many Chinese believe drinking snake wine can cure an inflammatory disease, ankylosing spondylitis and other health issues.
So, if you're game, there's a snake pill for your troubled immune system and a cobra powder that is more potent than Viagra to boost libido!
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