Turkish scorpion farmer milks arachnids for their expensive venom

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SANLIURFA, Turkey, Aug 16 (Reuters) - Thousands of scorpions, housed in transparent plastic boxes, line the walls of a breeding laboratory in Turkey's southeastern Sanliurfa province, waiting for personnel to milk their expensive venom used to produce medicine.

Using a pair of tweezers and tongs, lab employees remove the scorpions from the boxes and wait as they squeeze a tiny drop of venom from their needles into a receptacle. The venom is then frozen and turned into powder before it is sold.

A single scorpion produces about two milligrams of venom, and the lab is able to obtain about two grams of venom daily, said Metin Orenler, the owner of the scorpion farm.

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Orenler's farm, which opened in 2020, now has around 20,000 scorpions of the Androctonus Turkiyensis species, which was identified as a distinct type in an article published in a scorpiology journal in 2021.

"We both breed the scorpions themselves and also milk them," Orenler said. "We freeze the venom that we obtain as a result of the milking we do, then we turn it into powder and sell them to Europe."

The venom, which is exported to France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Switzerland, is used to produce cosmetics, painkillers and antibiotics, Orenler said, adding that one litre of the venom is worth $10 million.

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Writing by Ali Kucukgocmen, editing by Ed Osmond

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