As soon as the sun sets in Sindh, along the coast of southern Pakistan, scorpion hunters leave their homes looking for their fortune. The black scorpion has become one of the country’s most valuable commodities with large specimens going for thousands of dollars.
To date nobody has been able to explain the demand for the animals, and nobody seems to have any idea where the scorpions are going once they leave the sand. According to Pakistan’s The Tribune Express the trade in scorpions began to pick up about twelve months ago, but the country’s media still has no good explanation for the phenomenon.
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Scorpions don’t cure cancer
The most common explanation for the demand for scorpions is that the animals are being used in order to treat cancer. There is only one well-known treatment for cancer which uses scorpion venom, and it’s in an experimental, and controversial phase.
The deathstalker scorpion, which is actually a yellow scorpion, is being used by Jim Olson, but he gets his venom from medial facilities, not from scorpions sold on eBay. The widespread capture of black scorpions in Pakistan probably has little to do with Olson’s research.
Another piece of research is being done in Cuba where doctors believe they have discovered a vaccine for several types of cancer using the venom of the blue scorpion. The research is yet to be verified by authorities in the European Union or the United States.
With prices being offered for larger scorpions, with those of over a hundred grams bringing in thousands of dollars, it’s no wonder that the people of Sindh, Pakistan have set themselves the task of capturing the venomous animal, despite the danger to themselves.
Running out of scorpions
Some Pakistanis in the area are beginning to report a shortage of the animals and no wonder. One online auction site has several ads from people looking to buy Black Scorpions with one ad offering to “buy a black Scorpio on any cost.”
The high prices being offered for the animals, and the apparent reduction in numbers being caused by the hunt for them, brings similarities with the trade for Rhino horns to the forefront. The illegal gathering of rhino horns in Africa began because of the high price being paid for the appendage in China. The same thing happened with shark fins in the East Asian country.
Scorpion venom was an important part of medicine in ancient China and vestiges of its use have remained until this day. The country may be responsible for the rise in the price of the black scorpion, and Pakistanis may be the unwitting first link in a chain leading back to Beijing.
As Western Europeans drove animals like The Galapagos Giant Tortoise to near extinction out of love for its flesh and disregard for its habitat, China’s new found economic power may be causing trouble for scorpion species in Pakistan as it did for the Rhino in Africa.