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Inviato da Wes von Papinešu on Gennaio 08, 2000 at 08:44:40:
NEW STRAITS TIMES (Berhad, Malaysia) 15 February 99 Anything for the sake of a strong libido, even if it's slithery (Shareem Amry & Sharanjit Singh)
Kangar: While scientists say there is no proof that snake blood and organs are any kind of medical panacea, this has not stopped people from indulging in the grisly practice of killing the reptiles to drink their blood and chew on their gall bladders.
A surprising number of people continue to believe that the best way to perk up the libido is by downing a warm shot of snake blood - the deadlier the serpent, the better.
Live cobras are preferred, and if those can't be had, then banded kraits or vipers will do. The blood is extracted, mixed with whiskey and then down the hatch it goes.
Wait a few minutes, the snake peddlers say, and things will start to happen.
Believers also say chewing the raw gall bladder and reproductive parts extracted from the poor creatures will also clean the blood stream, urinary tract, bladder and kidneys, and even prevent cancer.
The medical community has traditionally frowned on the idea that snakes can be so therapeutic, and their position has not changed over the years.
When contacted, a spokesman for the Institute for Medical Research debunked the idea that snake blood and body parts could work such wonders.
"We have done no specific studies on whether snake blood has any properties as an aphrodisiac, as the only snake-related research we did was for the creation of anti-venom serum about five or six years ago," the spokesman said.
"But as far as we know, there is no scientific evidence to show that snake blood or its organs are able to do what people think it does. It is just a belief."
Despite this, the number of snakes being smuggled into the country to meet the demand shows that the snake business is as popular as ever.
Local snake catchers can no longer cope with the demand, resulting in the rampant smuggling of the serpents from Thailand.
Within the last month alone, Perlis National Parks and Wildlife Department enforcement officers have seized a total of 2,794 poisonous and non-poisonous snakes from smugglers.
Worth an estimated RM140,000, the snakes are believed to be from Thailand.
Department director Zulkifli Mohd Arshad said investigations showed the reptiles would have ended up satisfying people's lust for their blood and meat.
The law against the possession of a protected species, a category that includes cobras, has had little effect on the trade.
Zulkifli said catching protected species like the cobra was not an offence provided one had a permit, and that the department issued an average of 40 licences to snake catchers monthly.
The licence, which cost RM50, allows the capture of a maximum of 50 snakes.
Those who defy the ruling or catch protected species can be charged under the Wildlife Protection Act 76, 1972.
If convicted, they can be fined a maximum of RM3,000 or jailed three years, or both.
Zulkifli said the continued smuggling could probably be due to the fact that the returns were high enough for smugglers to risk arrest.
Although the snakes reportedly fetch no more than a few ringgit per kilogramme in Thailand, poisonous snakes can fetch up to RM45 per kg in Malaysia.
A longtime local snake catcher from Kampung Bonggor Kudong in Sanglang, Bidin Mat Hashim, 56, said the price of a snake depended on its size and how poisonous it was.
"The bigger and more poisonous it is, the more it costs. However, people only go for the poisonous ones."
Bidin, who claims to have caught no fewer than 25,000 snakes in the last 30 years, said a full-grown cobra could fetch up to RM120 these days.
"Back in the early 70s, the most I could get for a cobra was RM2.50. Over the years it went up to RM5. But in the last nine years, the price has shot up due to overwhelming demand."
Bidin claimed he could catch up to 25 poisonous snakes per day in the 70s, but it's just two per day now.
There are also times when he will search all the usual snake hiding spots, and still come up empty-handed by the day's end.
Asked who normally bought the reptiles, Bidin said he had a regular clientele. "I have a regular group of people who buy the snakes. They want to drink the blood and eat the internal organs."
Asked if he felt guilty about catching the reptiles, which were eventually killed, Bidin replied: "These are poisonous creatures which can kill people with just one bite. I don't see anything wrong in catching them."
Snake catchers like Bidin may be in the business purely for the commercial aspect, but their activity has sparked an outcry among the public and environmental protection groups.
Penang-based Sahabat Alam Malaysia has voiced concern about snake catching and smuggling.
Its president, S.M. Mohd Idris, said it was high time the authorities considered imposing a ban on the sale of snake meat, as well as making the use of its parts in all medicine illegal.
In a letter published on Wednesday, Mohd Idris said the Wildlife Act should be amended to increase the penalties for illegal trade in wildlife.
He said the authorities should also ban shows or attempts to set records by living with snakes.
"Such a gimmick involves the catching of snakes which will definitely lead to a decrease in the snake population. Snakes are an integral part of our rich biodiversity and form a vital link in the delicate life-giving ecosystem and need to be understood and protected," he wrote.
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