Puerto Rico Job Plan: Hunt Iguanas, Sell Their Meat

Puerto Rico will soon allow people to hunt down iguanas and sell their meat. Interested hunters can earn up to $6 per pound of iguana flesh, which would be processed and then exported to the United States. Unlike Florida, which strictly limits hunting Burmese pythons, Republican Gov. Luis Fortuno sees the iguanas as a source for new jobs: "It is a way to generate self-employment."

With over 4 million iguanas on the island, they actually outnumber humans in Puerto Rico. These reptiles first came to the island as exotic pets, and were released into the wild by pet owners in the 1970s. But with no natural predators, the iguana population has blossomed. Puerto Rico's Department of Natural Resources and Environment banned importing iguanas in 2004, but their numbers kept growing.

Now these lugubrious lizards have become massive pests, causing blackouts by burrowing under electric plants and unsettling building foundations. Iguanas have even created flight delays, costing $80,000 annually to remove them from San Juan's airport. (Ironically, many iguana species are vulnerable or endangered throughout most of Latin America.)

Fortunately, iguana is a fairly common ingredient in many Latin American countries, earning the nickname, gallinas de palo, or "chicken of the tree." There's even a cookbook of iguana recipes. The author, George Cera, has personally killed over 16,000 iguanas in Boca Grande, Florida, often shooting them from a golf cart.

Iguana meat isn't quite legal in the United States. Last year, U.S. Customs officials seized over 200 pounds of tree chicken, worth $6,000, from two different individuals. Both were charged with violating the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and the Lacey Act.

Ronald Bailey on invasive species. For more on culinary freedom, be sure to check out Keep Food Legal  and its founder, Baylen Linnekin. And here's Reason magazine Editor in Chief Matt Welch with Gov. Fortuno for Reason.tv:

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Any word on the tastiness of python meat?

  • ||

    Alligator is very tasty, so I think we could assume python is good too.

  • ||

    Rattlesnake isn't bad, either. A little greasier than you might expect, but no weird flavors or textures.

  • ||

    Alligator is basically a very firm dark meat chicken. Like firm chicken leg meat. So the rattler sounds a lot like it.

  • ||

    Alligator isn't bad, though it's often a little tough.

    I still think they need to distill some sort of illegal drug from pythons. Then they'll send the army in to deal with them.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ... but no weird flavors or textures.

    That is basically all I ask from my food.

  • ||

    Who eats iguana much less pays $6 a pound whole sale for it?

  • Randy||

    Is that a trick question?

  • Suki||

    Wall of Voodoo

  • Zeb||

    According to the article, lots of people eat iguana. I doubt they pay $6 a pound, though. Maybe it is good.

  • ||

    Interested hunters can earn up to $6 per pound of iguana flesh,

    Someone pays that.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Restaurants?

  • Zeb||

    I meant that the lots of people in the Caribbean and Latin America who eat them don't pay $6 a pound. I wonder if the price paid for the meat is some sort of subsidized thing so that it acts as a sort of bounty.

  • The Gecko||

    I eat iguana, and iguana eats me.

  • ||

    mmmm...tree chicken

  • Chicken||

    Iguana tastes like me.

  • Hugh Akston||

  • Suki||


    Puerto Rico will soon allow people to hunt down iguanas and sell their meat. Interested hunters can earn up to $6 per pound of iguana flesh, which would be processed and then exported to the United States.


    Puerto Rico has been part of the United States for quite some time. Amazing fact: Puerto Ricans are American Citizens when they are born and anybody born in the US territory is an American!

    You should not take the lyrics of America from West Side Story as historical fact.

  • spencer||

    Yes, but being in a US territory does not make it in the US. That's why we use the word "territory" afterward.

  • Suki||

    Nice try, wrongo.

  • spencer||

    So, Wrongo is your argument? Powerful.

  • Zeb||

    While it is not a state, I think that the argument could be made quite convincingly that it is in the United states.

  • ||

    In contracts, when we want to make sure the territories are included, we say, "The United States, its territories and possessions."

  • Zeb||

    Well, perhaps "the United States" is referring to the states which are united, in which case territories and possessions (and DC, I would assume) woudl be excluded as non-states. But if it refers to the whole country as a unit, it might include territories. I wonder if there has ever been a problem with a contract because it did not include the "territories and possessions" bit.
    Fortunately for me, I'm not a lawyer and don't have to produce a lot of legal documents, so I don't really care and it is all academic.

  • ||

    Fuck if I know. I just do the same thing over and over again, like repetition makes it all okay.

  • spencer||

    As a kid we used to try to run them over in golf carts outside of San Pedro in the Cayes.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Puerto Ricans?

  • Suki||

    Good thing they were not Mexicans or spencer would be in real trouble.

  • Zeb||

    Do Mexicans do more damage to golf carts than Puerto Ricans?

  • Suki||

    Not sure. John, can we have an experience ruling?

  • ||

    I remember when my wife and I were still dating and she was a student at the University of Miami: It was one of the coldest nights I could remember in Miami (around 40 degrees) and I was waiting for my wife (then girlfriend) outside her dorm on campus. While I stood there, I heard a thump that sounded like something landing in the grass nearby. A few seconds later I heard a second thump in the same area followed by a third sound further away. It turns out that there was a small population of wild iguanas living on campus and when temperatures got cold enough, the damn things would start falling out of the trees.

  • Bingo||

    It would not surprise me if some enterprising Floridian would gather them up for a barbecue.

  • Suki||

    The domesticated iguanas are much tougher.

  • ||

    Forget iguana. I think they should hunt gila monster. What could possibly go wrong?

  • Zeb||

    Cool. I want to go to Puerto Rico and shoot lizards for my next vacation.

    It is absolutely amazing to me that Fla. hasn't put a bounty on the pythons. You would think that they woudl want everybody who is interested to be out there killing pythons if they are really having as dramatic an effect on native wildlife as has been lately reported.

  • ||

    I don't get that at all. Invasive species needs death in a state with lots of guns and people who like to use them. Problem solved.

  • ||

    If that one idiot comes back, he'll totally PWN you about hunting pythons. Something something Florida panthers something.

  • ||

    That's our state animal. 'Cause that's the first animal you think of with Florida. Not the alligator. No.

  • Fluffy||

    It should be either the alligator or the "hot girl in Daisy Dukes who smokes and will look like her own grandma by her 25th birthday".

  • ||

    That's our motto.

    State song? No longer "Old Folks at Home." Not sure what it is now. Maybe "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida"?

  • ||

    Last time I looked, the state bird was the mockingbird, which is the state bird of a bunch of Southern states. I think that's some sort of racist code state bird or something. Because you'd think it would be the flamingo, osprey, bald eagle, something like that.

  • db||

    Ruffed. Grouse.

    That is all.

  • Fluffy||

    Does anybody know what the deal is with that?

    Snakes are filthy creatures that should have huge bounties on their heads even if they aren't an invasive species that will eat everything in its path.

    You know what the best animal is? A mongoose. Mongooses don't actually eat snakes. They just kill them. Why do they kill them, if they won't eat them? Because fuck snakes, that's why.

  • Zeb||

    It is amusing when people project their irrational fears onto the world.

    I will certainly agree that Mongooses are bad-ass motherfuckers, though.

  • Fluffy||

    If I can't anthropomorphize animals to make snide comments, what the fuck good are animals anyway?

  • ||

    Why not mongeese?

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Tom McEwen approves this message.

  • JOhnny MAckson||

    Honey badger eats snakes. 'Cause Honey badger doesn't give a shit! LOL

    Jess

  • ||

    Interested hunters can earn up to $6 per pound of iguana flesh,

    "Up to" means the same thing as "no more than", so I'm guessing it mostly goes for a hell of a lot less.

  • ||

    True, but at the same time the article cites two articles in which U.S. Customs agents claim a total of 200 lbs. of iguana meat is worth $6000, which is $30 per pound. In fact, in the one article the a customs agent explicitly states that the meat goes for between $25 and $30 per pound. So either there's one hell of a black market for iguana meat, in which traffickers pay around $6 per pound and then flip it for four to five times that amount, or customs is greatly exaggerating the value of their busts (as they often do with illegal drugs). I'm guessing it's a little bit of column A, a little bit of column B.

  • ||

    (Ironically, many iguana species are vulnerable or endangered throughout most of Latin America.)

    IRONY DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY!

  • spencer||

    but it's the best way to get the wrinkles out.

  • oncogenesis||

    Iguana is delicioso.

  • db||

    Are you guys having some kind of competition to link as many Nick Cage photos in posts as possible?

  • The Angry RPh||

    I don't know about eating iguanas, but cruising around with a cooler of cold ones and sniping them from a golf cart sounds like a hoot.

  • ||

    George Cera, has personally killed over 16,000 iguanas in Boca Grande, Florida, often shooting them from a golf cart.

    How they got in a golf cart, he'll never know.

  • Radioactive||

    Iquanas, notorious golf cart thieves...common knowledge

  • RoboCain||

    Why there would be any limits on hunting Burmese pythons in Florida is beyond me.

  • ||

    Who comes up with all that stuff. WOw.

    www.Be-Anon.tk

  • Iguana Bob||

    That's right, this is grade A "iguana" meat, regardless of what that doctor in Junktown told ya.

  • Radioactive||

    if it moves it's lunch...if it doesn't move it's lunch anyway, might just be sleeping.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement