Egyptian engineer Ahmed Abu Al-Saud wore a white doctors’ coat, and on a metal table he grabbed the tail of one of the scorpions with metal tongs, directing an electric wave on it to secrete a drop of poison into a small tube .. It is the Egyptian “scorpion kingdom”.
About 800 kilometers southwest of Cairo, and on an asphalt road with capacity for two cars, palm plantations spread on both sides and rise behind them in the sand dunes and mountains in the desert of the New Valley Governorate. A blue metal sign leads to the project.
A white building surrounded by a green agricultural patch appears soothing from the noon heat in the Dakhla oasis desert, where Abu Al-Saud collects scorpions that are the capital of his project and the source of his wealth.
Inside the building there is a laboratory consisting of two rooms, one of which includes dozens of shelves that carry colorful cans and boxes in which scorpions stay after putting sand in them, and the other in which the Scorpion Kingdom team conducts detoxification operations.
“I am a resident of the valley, and here every house has a story with scorpion stings, whether it is a worker in the field or young children in the house … It is a very big problem,” he says.
“I was surfing the Internet by chance, and I found that scorpion venom is one of the most valuable toxins, and I said why not take advantage of this desert environment, so that the scorpion is a useful thing not a harmful pest,” especially since the New Valley represents about 44% of the country’s area.
Abu Al-Saud explains that a single scorpion produces half a milligram of poison, and a full gram needs between 3000 and 3500 scorpions, “the most important thing is the degree of purity and quality.”
The liquid toxin extracted in cold containers is transported to the capital for drying and packing operations.
In addition to Abu Al-Saud, she works in a scorpion venom extraction laboratory, a pharmacist and a veterinarian from the New Valley.
“As pharmacists, we studied the benefits of scorpion venom and the possibility of using it in the composition of some medicines,” Nahla Abdel-Hamid, a pharmacist who also works at the Egyptian Ministry of Health, told AFP.
And she adds, “This is what encouraged me to work in the Kingdom of Scorpios … First, our protection, and secondly, to work in a center accredited with an official certificate that extracts scorpion venom and can export it abroad.”
As for a member of the Egyptian Chamber of Medicine, Mohi Hafez, he says, “The venom of scorpions and snakes is used in the extraction of antisera.”
Hafez explained to “AFP” that there is no medicine so far that depends directly on the venom of a scorpion or a snake, “but there are research attempts in this regard.”
According to a report published in the scientific journal “Biomedicine” last May, “It has been proven that dozens of biologically active molecules derived from scorpion have promising pharmacological properties.”
The report added, “The laboratories are now studying their potential antimicrobial and anti-cancer effects (…), hoping to use them in the manufacture of drugs.”
And spread in the New Valley, four or five species of scorpions, according to Abu Al-Saud, indicating that the most available species is “lorias”.
The venom of this type of scorpion contains more than 45 elements, and the price of a gram ranges between $ 6,500 and $ 7,500, according to Abu Al-Saud.
The pharmacist says that they try “as much as possible not to disturb the environmental balance, especially since scorpions are caught from residential and vital areas, not from remote environments.”
Abu Al-Saud explains that the project depends on the people of nearby villages for the hunting process.
“We choose one or two workers from each village, then train everyone and provide them with protective tools to complete this process,” he says.
Farmers are given gloves, metal tongs, boots, phosphorescent jackets and vaccines to carry out the hunt, and in the evening, night vision goggles are used.
Abu Al-Saud put on his protective gloves and grabbed a metal tongs and searched next to the building for a scorpion until he found one under a stone, so he picked it up and brought it into the laboratory.
Abdel Hamid, 25, who received training with her veterinary colleague from professors in this field, explains that her role begins when hunters bring scorpions to her, and explains, “I classify them according to the area from which they were hunted, the species, and then the size.”
According to Abdel Hamid, scorpion venom is extracted at least every 20 to 30 days to obtain the highest quality.
The twentieth veterinarian, Iman Abdel-Malik, says that a scorpion can survive for a long time without food, “but we try to provide a suitable environment for the scorpions and provide them with food and protein to increase the excretion of the toxin.”
Abdul-Malik indicates that scorpions are fed every 15 days in the summer, provided that the rate decreases in the winter due to the scorpions entering the winter hibernation.
And inside the scorpion boxes in the laboratory, Abdul-Malik puts cockroaches, worms, and some drops of water in a very small bowl, as food for scorpions.
“We are planning to multiply the scorpions in the future instead of relying on hunting,” she says.
200 acres of toxins
Abu Al-Saud, 44, studied automobile engineering and worked in the petroleum field for 18 years, until he decided in 2018 to leave his field and implement his project to extract scorpion venom and sell it to pharmaceutical companies.
In early 2018, Abu Al-Saud and a partner submitted a request to the governorate to allocate a plot of land far from population centers to build a farm and a factory for the production of scorpion venom, and their request was welcomed, and they obtained 200 acres to establish the project.
Abu Al-Saud aims for the Scorpion Kingdom to be “the largest center in Egypt and the Middle East, and to reach countries such as Germany, Britain and the United States.”
Alaa Sabaa, the second partner in the Kingdom of Scorpios, says that about 20 thousand scorpions have been collected so far, some in the laboratory and others in the farm, indicating that the project has a capacity of up to 80 thousand. He adds that “the project’s first production amounted to 3 grams of poison.”
• Abu Al-Saud: “Every house has a story with its bites from the field worker for children in the house.”
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