Although the desert doesn’t feature a wide variety of food for animals to eat, it does have plenty of snakes.
Camels are largely herbivores, but some wonder whether they ever consume snakes as part of their diet.
Sources disagree regarding whether camels eat snakes, with some saying they’re a culinary delight and others stating that camels never eat snakes. There is a belief in some countries that feeding a venomous snake to a camel will cure it of disease, but this isn’t backed up by evidence or research. However, camels do produce effective antivenom for human use.
Keep reading to learn about whether or not snakes are part of a camel’s diet. We’ll also discuss why people feed snakes to camels and the relationship between camels and antivenom.
Are Snakes Part Of A Camel’s Diet?
Whether or not snakes make up part of a camel’s diet has been a hotly debated topic.
For example, this study discusses newly-discovered evidence from India, along with observations from other parts of the world, claiming that camels behave as carnivores sometimes and that they consume snakes.
Within this study, snakes are even referred to as a “culinary delight” for camels.
Not all sources agree that camels eat snakes, though. Some explain that the Quran mentions that camels ingest live snakes when they are ill, and that eating snakes eliminates the disease.
According to this source, this is widely believed in some parts of the world, despite there being no concrete evidence or reasoning behind camels eating snakes.
For more information on people feeding camels venomous snakes, check out the video below.
Why People Feed Snakes To Camels
Although it’s not a widespread practice, sometimes people feed snakes to camels in the Middle East.
This is due to a belief or superstition that feeding a venomous snake to a camel, and then pouring water in the animal’s mouth, will cure it of disease.
A man named Isidore of Seville wrote a 20-volume book called Etymologies, which was his attempt to document as much knowledge as possible. Within Etymologies, he wrote about a strange behavior performed by deer when they were ill.
Apparently, the deer would draw snakes out of the ground and eat them to cure themselves of illness.
This is very similar to the belief in the Middle East that camels should be fed snakes when they are sick, so it’s thought that this information attached itself to camels rather than deer over time.
Some also report that this information about camels eating snakes comes from the Quran.
However, veterinarians do not agree that this is a suitable way to treat illness in camels. The disease thought to be treated with the ingestion of snakes is called trypanosomosis, and it’s caused by blood-sucking flies.
This illness can cause spontaneous abortions and increases the chance that camels will die shortly after birth.
It can also lead to severe testicular degeneration in male camels. It decreases red blood cells, hemoglobin, and packed cell volume.
There is no mention in studies or research of feeding camels snakes to cure them of trypanosomosis.
Camels And Antivenom
Feeding a venomous snake to a camel may not cure it of disease, but there is an interesting link between camels and snakes’ venom.
In parts of Asia and Africa, snakebites present a huge problem. They kill between 81,000 and 138,000 people each year.
Another 400,000 people are left with life-changing injuries like sight loss, amputations, and ulcers that never heal.
Problems With Traditional Antivenom
In the past, antivenoms produced by sheep and horses needed to remain frozen and were not effective at room temperature. This proved to be a problem in rural areas that didn’t have consistent electricity.
Because the need to keep the antivenom frozen decreased the antivenom’s shelf life, it also made it extremely expensive, to the point that it didn’t fit into doctors’ budgets.
Many pharmaceutical companies then halted antivenom production because they didn’t have enough customers.
Camel Antivenom And Its Benefits
In recent years, scientists have discovered that using camel antivenom has many benefits–one of which is that it can safely be kept at room temperature without losing its efficacy.
It’s thought that this is because camels are so well-adapted to living in desert environments.
Antivenom is produced by injecting animals with small amounts of venom (not enough to cause damage to the animal).
Then, the animals are bled so that the antibodies they created in response to the venom can be collected.
The antibodies are taken to the lab, where they’re purified and used as a base for the antivenom that will be utilized to treat humans who have suffered snake bites.
As of 2021, it was thought that it would take another five years or so before camel antivenom was widely used.
It’s still necessary to perfect the antivenom’s formula, complete preclinical trials in the lab using mice, and go through conventional human trials as well.
Some of the benefits of camel antivenom in comparison to the traditional sheep and horse antivenom are that it can be stored at room temperature and is just as effective (if not more so).
Plus, antibodies produced by camels are about one-tenth of the size of those of horses and sheep.
This means they’re less likely to cause dangerous allergic reactions and will most likely be able to penetrate tissue more easily.
Being able to penetrate human tissue means that camel antivenom should be able to prevent the death of living tissue from the toxins in snake venom.
This is something that the antivenoms produced by horses and sheep cannot do.
Camel antivenom is also cheaper than traditional antivenom, making it more accessible and affordable for those who need it.
Some sources state that camels enjoy eating snakes on occasion, and other sources report that these animals never eat snakes and stick to consuming plants instead.
In some parts of the world, there’s a belief that feeding a venomous snake to a sick camel will eliminate illness and restore its health. However, this isn’t backed up by research or evidence. Instead, veterinarians opt for medication that has been proven to cure diseases in camels.
There is a relationship between camels and antivenom, though. Antivenom is usually produced by horses and sheep, but antivenom produced by camels has many more benefits.
It’s cheaper, just as effective, and smaller, so it’s better at penetrating human tissue. It doesn’t need to be frozen and can be stored at room temperature, which is a huge advantage over traditional types of antivenom.
It will take some time for camel antivenom to complete all clinical trials and be widely used, but the discovery of its benefits was considered a huge medical breakthrough.
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