Nicaraguans told to eat iguanas as drought threatens food supplies

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 August, 2014, 9:20pm
UPDATED : Friday, 15 August, 2014, 9:20pm


Nicaraguans struggling to afford meat as the country suffers its worst drought in 32 years should consider raising and eating iguanas, a government land management expert has suggested.

"Breeding iguanas brings two benefits," said Guillermo Membreno. "Not only does it supply dietary protein, it also offers a commercial use for the animals."

Iguanas contained 24 per cent protein compared with 18 per cent in chicken, he said.

Nicaragua's environmental laws forbid the hunting the lizards between January 1 and April 30 each year, but they can be kept for food and even exported under certain circumstances.

"Farming iguanas, and not hunting them in forests, is a good way to deal with the food shortages caused by the prolonged drought," Membreno told the government-run online news site La Voz del Sandinismo.

"Even if you've got only 10 iguanas, you've got something that offers food - and cash if you sell the iguanas for their meat, their skins or as pets."

He also said people should grow moringa trees, which required little water and the leaves of which could be used as a highly nutritious animal feed.

WorldVision, the Christian humanitarian charity, reports that the average annual income of Nicaragua's 5.78 million people is only US$1,080.

A survey by a Nicaraguan newspaper show the cost of 15 of the 19 basic food items in the average shopping basket - including such staple foods as beans, corn, tomatoes and peppers - had risen in the past week.

However, the government's suggestions met with a mix of scorn and ridicule from some Nicaraguans.

"I was going to have an iguana for breakfast, but it ran away. I was going to have beans, but they're up to 37 [Nicaraguan cordobas] a pound [about HK$11] today," tweeted one.

The situation in Central America's poorest country is growing increasingly serious.

Conagan, the national livestock commission, said the drought led to 2,500 cattle starving to death last month, while a further 600,000 of Nicaragua's 4.1million livestock were on the verge of starvation.