IS SNAKE FARMING A REALLY PROFITABLE BUSINESS IN KENYA?
Snake farming has been popularized in Kenya by presidential hopeful George Luchiri Wajackoyah.
He talked on how he will engage in Snake farming to Pay Chinese Debt if elected president.
This arose my curiosity and I had to do some research to find out if snake farming is really a profitable business in Kenya.
Snake farming business involves the rearing of various snake species for commercial purposes. It is a very highly profitable business for anyone who dares venture into it because of the risk associated with it.
It does not matter where you are in Kenya, India, United States, Britain, anywhere at all, there is a ready market for you.
The truth is that snakes are not among the most liked reptiles compared to lizards, turtles, crocodilians e.t.c. A lot of people are afraid of them. But for anyone who will overlook the apparent risk and get into the business of snake farming, you may be on your way to making millions every year from this highly profitable business.
*Why is snake farming business profitable?*
Snake farming business is very lucrative because there is a growing demand for snake venom in the global venom market. Conversely, there is low supply due to the number of people involved in snake farming business.
Snake venom is a highly toxic saliva containing zootoxins that facilitates in the immobilization and digestion of prey. This also provides defense against threats. Snake venom is injected by unique fangs during a bite, whereas some species are also able to spit venom.
Venom contains more than 20 different compounds, which are mostly proteins and polypeptides. The complex mixture of proteins, enzymes, and various other substances has toxic and lethal properties.
Venom serves to immobilize prey. Enzymes in venom play an important role in the digestion of prey, and various other substances are responsible for important but non-lethal biological effects.
Some of the proteins in snake venom have very specific effects on various biological functions, including blood coagulation, blood pressure regulation, and transmission of nerve or muscle impulses. These venoms have been studied and developed for use as pharmacological or diagnostic tools, and even drugs.
Pharmaceutical companies spend millions of dollars each year to purchase snake venom. That expenditure is expected to grow into billions if ongoing research on the use of snake venom to cure cancer is positive.
With the huge investment by Pharmaceutical companies to grow the snake venom market, it is expected that more people especially in Africa where jobs are scarce will take up snake farming the apparent risks not withstanding.
Some snakes have been found to have antitumor activity. Anticancer activity has been also reported for other compounds in snake venom. Others act on bacterial cell surfaces, providing novel antimicrobial (antibiotic) activities.
The (pain-killing) activity of many snake venom proteins has been long known. The main challenge, however, is how to deliver protein to the nerve cells: proteins usually are not applicable as pills.
Additionally, Pharmaceutical companies use the gall bladders, livers and skin from the snakes to create nutritional supplements which are ultimately sold to customers in Japan, South Korea, America and Europe.
Snakes are eaten as meat by a good number of the world population. The skin of snakes like Python is used in the fashion industry for production of different fashion items.
While snake farming is very lucrative, it is however illegal in some places because of the risk involved in it. But it is legal in so many countries.
*Is snake farming a good business venture?*
A small village in China known as Zisiqiao ‘snake village’ makes over $12 million (Ksh.1.2 billion) a year from the snake farming business alone.
A couple of decades ago, locals in Zisiqiao made a living from farming and fishing. But now they rear snakes – among them pythons, vipers and cobras.
There are three million snakes in total – leaving the locals outnumbered by the serpents by a ratio of almost 3,000 to one.
Step into any of the more than 100 snake farms in the village and you will see the snakes slithering about in small wooden boxes piled on top of each other.
During the summer months, you can see concrete pits full of some of the most dangerous snakes in the world. One snake is particularly feared here – the so-called “five-step snake”.
One of the snake farmers from the village, Fang Yin works together with his wife and they make over $60,000 (Ksh.6 million) a year. He previously worked in a Pharmaceutical company.
He told a newspaper in China: “At first I was afraid and thought they were gross but now I’m used to all this.”
However, he is not the biggest snake farmer in the village of Zisiqiao. The biggest farmer is Yang Hongchang who makes over $3 million (Ksh.300 million) a year from the Snake farming business.
In Kenya, snake farming is restricted. Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) issues licenses to persons willing to engage in the business.
Jonathan Leakey is credited with introducing the lucrative snake farming business in Kenya. Most publications, both local and international, have described him as the father of snake farming in Kenya. He is said to have sold his merchandise to buyers in Europe, South America and China.
*How to start snake farming business in Kenya*
Here are steps to start snake farming business:
*1. Find out the legal requirement*
Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) recently invited Kenyans to apply for licenses to conduct snake farming in Kenya. In a notice, KWS said:
“Are you interested in snake farming? To do it you need to acquire a license. Download the license application form for Authority to Operate Wildlife Utilization Enterprise,” the agency announced, providing the link below to a seven-page application form.
*2. Find a suitable location*
A good location is very important. When thinking of a location, consider the safety of the people around. So it is best you set in an isolated location so as to avoid human fatality. While snake only react when threatened, it can also react when accidentally stepped upon.
Also consider the temperature. Snakes require a temperature of 24-29 degrees Celsius during the day and around 21-24 degrees Celsius during the night.
*3. Acquire snakes*
Your next target should be getting the snake into your snake farm. You can engage local hunters who are good with capturing snake. You should try to get as many species of snakes as possible but more emphasizes on the most lucrative species.
Another option is to buy snakes from snake dealers. This will depend on where you are. There are snake dealers almost everywhere in the world.
*4. Feeding the snakes*
Each type of snake eats different types of food. But almost all of them will eat mice. They also feed on rodents, insects, eggs, birds, fish, lizards, frogs, toads and others.
On average snakes usually eats about 4 mice at a time and need to be fed every 4 weeks. They prefer live meal. Give them the food live.
The bigger snakes like Python may require bigger meal.
If you are keeping your snake in a cage, you should be able to clean it always. This will ensure high productivity as snakes need to be kept in optimum conditions, to prevent any health problems.
Marketing your snake is not very difficult. There is a big market for snakes across the world. You need to go online and find buyers. You can also write directly to pharmaceutical companies.
Also target the fashion industries. Snakes skin are used to make belts, jackets, shoes, bags and more. Reach out to them.
Another option is to look out for restaurant that serves snake meal, supply to them.
If you have a phenomenal snake specie, reach out to zoos, they may be interested.
Overall, your biggest bet that brings the most money is the pharmaceutical companies! The demand is high.
While snake farming is very lucrative, it is also very risky. Because of that ensure you take the necessary precaution to avoid accidents that could be fatal.
Please ensure that you have anti-venom readily available. For every specie of snake you have, you should have an anti-venom for it.
Ensure that you wear boots and gloves when in your snake farm to minimize effect of bites.
Do not let children near the snake farm.
Snake farming business is very lucrative and can make anyone rich because of the few number of people who venture into it. It is risky and only for the fearless entrepreneurs.