The Forensics of Snake Venom

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serpent, cobra, inde, venin, poison, trafic

Un charmeur de serpent boit le venin d’un cobra ©AFP

Smuggling dried cobra venom has its challenges. First there’s the difficulty of milking these highly venomous snakes; it takes time, patience and skill. (It took the legendary snake wrangler Bill Haast three years and 69,000 milkings to produce one pint of coral snake venom, for example.)

Then the smugglers have to furtively transport the stuff and find a buyer with deep pockets. Trepidation is warranted: the authorities in Kerala, India, have made a number of arrests in recent years for venom trafficking, an activity they say is on the rise. It’s illegal to trade in venom from any snake species protected under the country’s Wildlife Act, including the Indian cobra. But how to prove that the substance came from an endangered cobra?

The New York Times

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