While there isn’t a wealth of food sources in the desert environment, snakes can often be found. This has led to speculation about whether or not camels consume them as part of their diet. Sources are conflicted on whether camels eat snakes; some argue they are a culinary delight while others maintain they never will.
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In certain cultures, it is believed that feeding a venomous snake to a camel can cure it of ailments, although this theory is unproven and unsupported. On the other hand, camels are known for producing an effective antivenom which can be used to treat humans who have been bitten by dangerous snakes.
To learn more, we have to examine if indeed camels eat snakes and why some people would choose to feed them, such creatures, as well as understand the relationship between camels and antivenom production.
Are Snakes Part Of A Camel’s Diet?
The controversial debate over whether camels consume snakes as part of their diet has been back in the spotlight recently. One study conducted in India found that camels feed on snakes occasionally and even referred to them as a “culinary delight”. It should be noted that while camels aren’t strict herbivores, they typically consume plants, fruits and other vegetation to sustain themselves – meat is only an occasional treat which they have access to when food sources are scarce.
While this particular study showed evidence of camel-snake ingestion, not all sources agree with its findings. According to some interpretations of the Quran, it suggests that when ill, camels eat live snakes in order to cure their illnesses.
While this may be an interesting idea, it is seemingly founded only on unproven folklore and speculation. Interestingly, the question of why a camel would bother to eat a snake seems to go unanswered.
Why People Feed Snakes To Camels
This strange behaviour of camel is not completely unheard of. In some parts of the Middle East, it has been believed for centuries that feeding a venomous snake to a camel will cure it of its maladies. This belief was actually mentioned in a book written by Isidore of Seville titled Etymologies.
Although this superstition has been around for many years, how exactly it came about is still uncertain. It could be linked to the idea that snakes are full of physical and spiritual properties that can be released when ingested, or perhaps people simply associated the power and vitality of a snake with having curative powers.
It may seem strange, but for many years people in the Middle East have believed that camels should be fed snakes if they become sick. This idea has evolved from its original form of being used to treat deer and was somehow attached to camels over time.
While some attribute this practice to the Quran, veterinarians have come to the conclusion that trypanosomosis – the disease thought to be cured by ingesting snakes – is actually caused by blood-sucking flies and therefore cannot be treated by feeding a camel a snake.
The likelihood of camel mortality soon after birth is increased, and this disease may cause spontaneous abortions.
In male camels, it can cause the testicles to deteriorate to an advanced stage. The number of RBCs, Hemoglobin, and Packed Cell Volume are all diminished.
A dose of four grammes of the polyanionic chemical Naganol administered intravenously is effective in treating this illness.
Studies and research into treating camels infected with trypanosomosis by feeding them snakes have turned up nothing.
Camels And Antivenom
There is an intriguing connection between camels and the venom of snakes, even if feeding a venomous snake to a camel may not cure it of disease.
Snakebites in parts of Asia and Africa are a serious and often fatal danger to people living in the affected areas, with an estimated 81,000 to 138,000 people dying from snakebites each year. Unfortunately, many more are left to suffer from devastating physical, mental, or emotional disabilities after being bitten.
Moreover, up to 400,000 persons annually must deal with lingering issues such as sight loss, severed limbs or digits, ulcers that never heal, and permanent disabilities.
Problems With Traditional Antivenom
Historically, the antivenoms used to treat snakebites were produced by either sheep or horses and needed to be frozen in order to remain effective. This created a huge problem for rural areas where electricity was not always available, diminishing their access to lifesaving treatments.
To make matters worse, needing to keep the antivenom frozen drastically reduced its shelf life and made it exceedingly expensive – too pricey for many doctors. A lack of customers drove many pharmaceutical companies out of the antivenom business.
Camel Antivenom And Its Benefits
In a revolutionary development in recent years, scientists have found that camel antivenom can be stored at room temperature without compromising its efficacy. This is credited to the camel’s extraordinary heightened resistance and adaptation to extremely hot and dry desert conditions; hence, the antibodies made by camels in response to venom remain productive and dynamic even when kept at warmer temperatures.
The antivenom is created by introducing small portions of venom into animals and then collecting their generated antibodies through blood extraction.
In the lab, the antibodies are purified and used as a foundation for the antivenom used to treat people who have been bitten by snakes.
The widespread use of camel antivenom was not expected until at least 2024, five years from 2021 estimates.
There is additional work to be done to refine the antivenom’s formulation, finish preclinical experiments in the lab using mice, and conduct standard human trials.
Camel antivenom has certain advantages over the more conventional sheep and horse antivenom, such as being effective even when stored at room temperature (if not more so).
In addition, the smaller size of antibodies produced by camels means they pose less of a risk of causing dangerous allergies in humans than those created from horses and sheep. Not only is camel antivenom less likely to cause allergic reactions, but it can more easily penetrate human tissue as well.
This makes it effective at protecting living tissue from poisonous snake venom, something that traditional horse or sheep-based antivenoms cannot do, making camel antivenom an invaluable tool. Furthermore, their cheaper cost makes them much more accessible and affordable when compared to regular antivenoms.
Why do live snakes feed camels?
One major cause is that all camels are infected with Hiam, a sickness that can only be treated by feeding the animals real snakes.
What does a camel eat?
Camels are herbivores, so they rely on plants and grasses to find the nutrients they need. They can eat various shrubs, weeds, dry types of grass and even leaves from trees if available. In the wild, camels usually eat whatever vegetation is around them in order to survive — desert plants may include sagebrush, cacti, thistles or needlegrass among other things.
Which animal can swallow a snake?
What animal eats the most snakes?
While some sources state that camels do eat snakes on occasion, other sources disagree and say that these animals only consume plants instead. The debate about whether or not camels snack on snakes continues; however, it does seem safe to assume that feeding venomous reptiles to sick camels won’t cure any ailments.
The consumption of a venomous snake by a sick camel is said to cure the animal in some cultures. Yet, there is no data or studies to support this. Instead, vets will use drugs that have been shown to be effective in treating camel ailments.
Although, Camels may look like unassuming creatures they actually have a secret superpower – the power to produce powerful antivenom. Antivenom produced from camels demonstrates remarkable advantages to traditional types of antivenom that are usually produced by horses and sheep.
Camel-produced antivenom can be stored at a simpler room temperature instead of needing to be frozen, it penetrates human tissue better with its smaller size and is surprisingly cheaper too. This incredible medical breakthrough had scientists buzzing and may finally pave the way for camel antivenom products to be widely distributed after successful clinical trials.
A motivated philosophy graduate and student of wildlife conservation with a deep interest in human-wildlife relationships, including wildlife communication, environmental education, and conservation anthropology. Offers strong interpersonal, research, writing, and creativity skills.