Snake farming is not an easy venture – this is what WoK has established in a bid to shed some light on this investment in Kenya. We spoke to Kyle Ray, a curator at the East African Reptiles Centre located in Kilifi County.
They have been in existence for roughly 43 years and their interest in snakes is out of the quest to create awareness on the slithering reptiles. The firm educates people on dos and don’ts in case of an encounter with snake.
Additionally, they offer training on off-hand snake handling for interested people. In their surrounding, they help in catching snakes that may be dangerous to the community and in so doing rescue both humans and the snakes.
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The centre is a tourist attraction site and charges Ksh1000 for adults and half of this for children as the entrance fees. Apart from snakes, they also keep other reptiles like crocodiles.
Kyle says that establishing a snake park is not a walk in the park as there are numerous licences that one has to apply for at Kenya Wildlife Service. Additionally, it is crucial that employees are trained on handling of venomous snakes species.
“There is a lot of different licences needed from KWS (and) different equipment and training that is need which cant be done overnight,” he said.
Kyle told this writer that they only extract venom for demonstration and training of staff.He points out that getting funding is a big challenge to their venture. Moreover, he stated that it’s false that many Kenyans think they make a big money from the snake park.
“Due to some article being circulated a lot of people think we are making millions which is definitely not the case,” he responded.
Arafat Manyoka: Kwale’s snake farmer
In Kwale County, Arafat Manyoka has been in snake farming and is a renowned entrepreneur who survives on this enterprise. He is the founder and owner of Jungle Snake Park which employs roughly a dozen of people.
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Manyoka says he is an expert in snake handling and is able to point out various behaviors of the dangerous animals including when they perceive a threat and when they are on heat.
However, it was difficult when he started considering snakes are generally thought to be associated with stereotypes like witchcraft.
“My neighbours thought I was crazy. Others said I wanted to die,” he said in a past interview.
He recounts two near death experiences when he got bitten by a black mamba and a puff adder. Luckily, he received treatment and recovered but still remains with keloid scars on his fingers.
Arafat charges three packages for visitors. They range from Ksh 300 up to Ksh 1000. He considers milking venom as a very profitable venture, saying there is a ready market for venom. He however explained that it is an expensive investment as one has to acquire deep freezers and dessication expertise to store the venom.
“Milking is a profitable activity. The venom is sold per gram and there are wealthy people who need it,” he said.
Is Snake Farming Feasible?
In a 2017 article by BBC, another Kenyan, Kioko Makau revealed that there was market for snakes in various zoos in Europe and North America. He said that he could earn up to Ksh 10k for the snake sales. Additionally, Kioko who owns the Kioko Snake Ventures in Kitui said that he received more than 300 visitors daily during peak season. At the time, he charged 350 bob as entrance for domestic tourists.
According to a 2019 video uploaded by BBC Africa, one gram of snake venom can fetch between $800 – $3000. ( Ksh 92k to Ksh 348k). For one to get this amount, he would need to milk around 4 snakes.
The venom must be stored at very low temperature of about -20°c and can be desiccated and made into powder form. Basically, the venom is used for research and production of antivenoms. During the launch of his manifesto on 30th June, 2022, Roots Party presidential candidate George Wajackoyah yet again caused a stir with his advocacy for snake farming. He alleged that one vial of cobra antivenom could earn up to Ksh 600000.