Black scorpion smuggling in Afghanistan is big business

The trade of scorpion hunting in Afghanistan has been around for years but has become a lucrative business in the past few months. (Getty images)
Updated 01 June 2018
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Black scorpion smuggling in Afghanistan is big business

  • Black scorpions can cost on average hundreds of dollars; one weighing 60 grams was sold for as much as $120,000, according to a local Herat dealer.
  • The final price of the scorpion increases with a rise in the number of brokers.

KABUL: The trade of scorpion hunting in Afghanistan, though unregistered, has been around for years but has become a lucrative business in the past few months.
A local dealer from western Herat province said Herat and neighboring Farah, with vast scorching deserts, have become the common hunting ground for shepherds and poor local residents who spend hours and sometimes days trying to catch scorpions.
Scorpions are in high demand for medical research, scorpion smoking and other uses. Its venom is used to develop compounds for anti-cancer medicines while it is a popular street-food snack in many countries, including China.
Requesting anonymity while talking to Arab News, the dealer explained that the invertebrates can cost an average of hundreds of dollars while one weighing 60 grams was sold for as much as $120,000. It all depends on the size of the scorpion and the broker’s offer, he said. “The final price of the scorpion increases with a hike in the number of brokers.”
The weight of the scorpion matters because, according to Khan, those weighing more than 40 grams have a longer life expectancy.
Scorpions hunted in neighboring Farah are brought to Herat city where local dealers compete with each other to find a foreign buyer for their merchandise. The buyers are often Chinese, Arab and Iranian nationals who take them out of the country for medical research and consumption purposes, the dealer told Arab News from Herat by phone.
“It has become a new lucrative business for the past few months now. In the old days we used to kill them (black scorpions) because they are very deadly, now we are chasing to find one,” he said.
While the trade is legal in parts of Pakistan, the authorities in Afghanistan are still considering whether to curb the practice, adding to the fear of local dealers who are avoiding being coerced into giving away their foreign buyers.
“The transaction is conducted in the underground or on social media,” said the dealer.
An investigative reporter for a local Kabul daily bought a 10 gram scorpion for $1,000 from a local dealer in Herat, disguising himself as a frontman for a foreign pharmaceutical firm, Hashte Sobh said in its May 29 edition.
Smuggling scorpions is easy as the creature is tough and can last in a hot climate, surviving in covered boxes without food for several weeks.
Lawmakers from the region have expressed their concern over the trade, especially its impact on the ecosystem.
A spokesman for Herat’s governor, Jailani Farhad, confirmed that the trade was taking place and said the authorities were looking into it.
“We are collecting facts and looking into legalities on whether such kind of trade of a rare type of insect is illegal or not. Instructions have been given to the local authorities in this regard,” Farhad told Arab News.
Kazim Humayoun, a Kabul-based ecological expert, said that Afghanistan has compiled a “Red List” that bars hunting and smuggling of 148 species of animals, birds and insects.
“There are species that have gone extinct and some are on the verge of extinction. The falcons here and another bird named Dogh Dogh have also been key attractions for local and Arab hunters in the past,” he said.
There is a high demand for scorpion venom, especially in the US and Europe, where — according to a report published in the Wall Street Journal — the product is sold for $39 million a gallon.


’Pig’ British tourists to be deported from New Zealand

Updated 16 January 2019
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’Pig’ British tourists to be deported from New Zealand

  • The family have been involved in a string of incidents in the country, including accusations of littering, assault, not paying for restaurant meals and intimidating behavior
  • "They're worse than pigs and I'd like to see them out of the country," Auckland mayor said

WELLINGTON: Members of a British family have been branded “worse than pigs” and face deportation from New Zealand after a spree of bad behavior that left normally easygoing Kiwis outraged.
The family have been involved in a string of incidents in and around Auckland and Hamilton, including accusations of littering, assault, not paying for restaurant meals and intimidating behavior.
Auckland mayor Phil Goff led national outcry at the tourists’ antics, demanding the police take action. “These guys are trash. They are leeches,” he told a local radio station.
“If you say one time ‘I found a hair or an ant in my meal’ you’d believe it but they find it every meal that they have as a way of evading payment. That’s a criminal activity.
“They’re worse than pigs and I’d like to see them out of the country.”
New Zealand’s assistant general manager of immigration, Peter Devoy, said the family had been issued with a deportation notice on the grounds of “matters relating to character.”
One 26-year-old member of the family on Wednesday pleaded guilty to stealing NZ$55 ($37) worth of goods from a petrol station.
The family attracted extensive media coverage in New Zealand after a video showed them leaving beer boxes, bottles and other rubbish strewn on a popular beach.
When a woman asked them to clean up their litter, a child in the group can be seen on video threatening he would “knock your brains out.”
Stuff Media reported that one family member hit a journalist with her shoe after being approached for comment.
A member of the family told the New Zealand Herald they have now decided to cut short their holiday and will return home this week.
John Johnson insisted his family were of good stock, claimed his grandfather was the “10th richest man in England” and said he was made to feel “very unwelcome” in New Zealand.