Maintenance of venomous snakes in captivity for venom production at Butantan Institute from 1908 to the present: a scoping history

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Maintenance of snakes at Butantan Institute started in the last century, intending to produce a different antivenom serum to reduce death caused by snakebites. Through a successful campaign coordinated by Vital Brazil, farmers sent venomous snakes to Butantan Institute by the railway lines with no cost. From 1908 to 1962, the snakes were kept in an outdoor serpentarium, where venom extraction was performed every 15 days. During this period, the snake average survival was 15 days. In 1963, the snakes were transferred to an adapted building, currently called Laboratory of Herpetology (LH), to be maintained in an intensive system. Although the periodicity of venom extraction remained the same, animal average survival increased to two months. With the severe serum crisis in 1983, the Ministry of Health financed remodeling for the three public antivenom producers, and with this support, the LH could be improved. Air conditioning and exhausting systems were installed in the rooms, besides the settlement of critical hygienic-sanitary managements to increase the welfare of snakes. In the early 1990s, snake survival was ten months. Over the years to the present day, several improvements have been made in the intensive serpentarium, as the establishment of two quarantines, feeding with thawed rodents, an interval of two months between venom extraction routines, and monitoring of snake health through laboratory tests. With these new protocols, average snake survival increased significantly, being eight years for the genus Bothrops, ten years for genus Crotalus and Lachesis, and four years for the genus Micrurus. Aiming the production of venoms of good quality, respect for good management practices is essential for the maintenance of snakes in captivity. New techniques and efficient management must always be sought to improve animal welfare, the quality of the venom produced, and the safety of those working directly with the venomous snakes.
Grego KF, Vieira SEM, Vidueiros JP, Serapicos EO, Barbarini CC, Silveira GPM, et al. Maintenance of venomous snakes in captivity for venom production at Butantan Institute from 1908 to the present: a scoping history. J. Venom. Anim. Toxins Trop. Dis.. 2021 Jan;27:e20200068. doi:10.1590/1678-9199-JVATITD-2020-0068.
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