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Dam, mining blamed for rise in scorpion stings in Sudan

September 20 - 2018 RIVER NILE STATE
The deathstalker scorpion (Leiurus quinquestriatus) common in Sudan and the Sahara (File photo)
The deathstalker scorpion (Leiurus quinquestriatus) common in Sudan and the Sahara (File photo)

The rise in the incidence of people being stung by scorpions in Sudan, especially in River Nile state, is being blamed on the establishment of the Merowe dam and mining operations that have put pressure on the creatures’ habitat.

There has been a steady rise in cases and while a scorpion sting is rarely life-threatening to healthy adults, children are particularly vulnerable and several deaths have been reported recently.

Zoology expert, Prof Mohamed El Rayah, said that the reason for the spread of scorpions and the noticeable increase in stings is due to Merowe dam and the emergence of the lake. Prof El Rayah explains that the lake displaced the scorpion population – that usually avoid humans – from their usual habitat areas to the agricultural groves.

He also cites mining operations as a factor. “Scorpions are accustomed to living in parts of the desert that usually see very little human activity, however when mining operations move into the area, they are encountered in peoples’ living quarters which increases rates of stings and deaths, especially among children.

Victims

Radio Dabanga previously reported a rise in the number of child victims of scorpion stings in River Nile’s El Buheira area. A member of parliament said that local authorities should take responsibility in combating a growing scorpion population.

In August, a young child named El Barajob Khalil Harbi, died after being stung by a scorpion at El Manaseer region in River Nile state.

In December 2017, when two children died of scorpion stings, also in El Manaseer, a town north of Ed Damer near the river.

One of the leaders in El Manaseer at the time also accused the state government of failing to perform its duties. “The number of the people who died of scorpion stings has risen to 79 since the establishment of the dam. The majority of them are children.”

Export product

The Governor of Nile River state, Maj. Gen. Hatem El Wasila, announced this month that the state is planning to export scorpions.

He said that many industries use dried scorpions, Akhbar El Sudan reported on its digital website on Wednesday.

In reaction to Chinese workers catching scorpions in the Lake Nasser in northern Sudan, Sudanese began to catch and dry scorpions to sell to China. In 2016, Sudanese customs agents at Khartoum International Airport seized 200 kilos of dried scorpions on their way to the Asian country.

However, the creatures are also legally exported. Sudanese businesswoman Kawsar Samaniobtained a permit to hunt scorpions in northern Sudan and founded a company that exports scorpions to in 2015. Most of them are boiled, dried, and then ground.

They are mostly used for medical purposes; the rest are bought by Chinese restaurants. Scorpions are used in several countries as a supposed sexual stimulant. They are also used for the treatment of cancer.

The arachnids are hunted by forcing them out of their hiding places with water and light. They are then picked-up with aluminium pliers and placed in a glass box, where they are left to breed.


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