If You Can’t Beat Them, Eat Them?

Green iguanas have taken over Puerto Rico and local residents are calling the problem the “green plague“. The iguanas, which aren’t native to Puerto Rico, have few natural predators on the island and are reproducing rapidly. Their population is now estimated at approximately 4 million which surpasses Puerto Rico’s human population that is holding steady at 3.7 million.

The iguana infestation is wreaking havoc on the island. They chew up plants and crops, burrow under roads and dikes, infiltrate electrical substations and have triggered power outages. They had one such power outage in January at Plaza las Américas, the island’s biggest shopping mall. The iguanas have often gathered on runways at the international airport in San Juan and have forced officials to delay flights until they could be removed.

According to Rafael Joglar, a biology professor at the University of Puerto Rico, the green iguanas are native to Central and South America and arrived in Puerto Rico in the 1970s as part of the pet trade. Over time some iguanas have escaped and some were set loose, and over time their population increased.

The complaints about the iguanas have increased drastically over the past few years, and in order to combat the problem Puerto Rico announced that their residents are allowed to hunt them. That did not solve the problem, so now authorities have a new solution — eat them!

The demand to eat iguanas isn’t high in Puerto Rico, but iguana meat is popular in other countries in Latin America and Asia. The hope is that Puerto Rico will gather iguanas up and export the meat to other countries. Secretary of the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, Galán Kercadó, believes that this could help with the overpopulation of iguanas while creating jobs, too.

Many cultures consider iguana meat a luxury. It can be roasted and eaten in stews and some consume it in hopes that it will increase their libido. Iguana oil has even been used to treat rheumatism and bruises. Iguana-loving regions have had such a decrease in their iguana population that some countries like Guatemala and Nicaragua had to enact protections to ensure the species’ survival.

Puerto Rican officials hope that they could turn this island-wide problem into a lucrative market overseas. On the other hand, members of PETA are crying foul and saying this business proposal is senseless and cruel.

Only time will tell if this proposed method will solve the issue and bring money (and jobs) to the island.