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An iguana cage at the sanctuary in Juchitán. An iguana cage at the sanctuary in Juchitán.

Oaxaca conservation group laments theft of 44 iguanas

The adult specimens will likely end up on the dinner table

A conservation group has reported the theft of 44 adult iguanas from its breeding facility in Juchitán, Oaxaca.

Members of the Foro Ecológico Juchiteco (Ecological Forum of Juchitán) said that thieves stole large, reproductive-age black and green iguanas from their cages at the sanctuary in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec city.

“They only left 200 small and medium-sized iguanas; they took the reproductive ones, the big ones, the ones for breeding,” said Gonzalo Bustillo Cacho. “They’ve interrupted the breeding process, it’s really upsetting. … This robbery hurts, it’s really disappointing.”

The motive for the theft was unclear but it’s likely that the iguanas will end up in a stew. Endemic to the region, the reptiles make for a popular meal in Juchitán and other Isthmus towns.

According to the Foro Ecológico, 200 iguanas are killed for their meat every day. That number rises to 500 per day during Easter week when iguana meat is commonly used to make stews and fill tamales.

iguana at juchitan sanctuary
‘They’ve interrupted the breeding process, it’s really upsetting,’ said a sanctuary spokesman.

The lizards’ popularity as a meal – its meat is thought to be aphrodisiac – has led to them becoming endangered, making the theft even more distressing for those dedicated to their conservation.

This week’s robbery comes eight years after 84 adult iguanas were stolen from the breeding facility.

The Juchitán sanctuary has been breeding black and green iguanas for the past 15 years. The facility released more than 50 iguanas into the wild in June, and some 3,000 of the reptiles have been released since the project began in 2005.

Some Juchitán citizens have also taken it upon themselves to help ensure the survival of the reptiles. One is 15-year-old José Francisco Sánchez, who used his own money to buy wood, wire and other supplies to build cages that mimic their natural habitat.

Sánchez said earlier this year that he plans to raise his lizards to adulthood — iguanas reach sexual maturity at between 3 and 4 years of age — before releasing them into the wild.

Source: Aristegui Noticias (sp) 

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