Iguanas, slider turtles and giant rodents are some of the strange creatures being smuggled through Colombia to be made into traditional Easter meals.
Carolina Rangel, from the confiscated animal centre in Bogota said, “This is the season we have them all coming in.” During the Easter season Colombians smuggle the exotic animals so they can prepare special meals for their families, reported AFP.
“People bring them in (from far-flung provinces) secretly, even stashed in suitcases so they can eat them with relatives, or sell them at open-air markets,” said local environmental official Andres Alvarez.
Earlier this month, police intercepted someone near Bogota with what amounted to be a mini-herd of eight capybara, the world’s biggest rodent that can top 220 pounds. While they are not endangered, they are protected from being hunted during this time as it is their reproductive season.
These exotic creatures are often served up in age-old recipes of indigenous people, descended from migrants who came from eastern Asia into North and South America hundreds of years ago. These recipes have traditional ties with the north and north-western areas of the country, which have the biggest concentrations of indigenous people today.
Among the unusual seasonal treats: turtle’s eggs omelettes; iguana soup; cayman or turtle stew, which is served up with coconut rice, fried yuca.
Anthropologists are unsure how the custom of eating these meals during the Christian Easter celebrations evolved, but people who travelled along local rivers in what is modern-day Colombia ate all of these animals before the Spanish colonial era started in the 15th century.
“For our indigenous people, the sleeper turtle and iguana are historically symbolic, mystical animals and part of age-old customs. Ultimately, what happened was that the (Roman) Catholic calendar’s tradition ended up melding with the fact that those animals are plentiful” during the spring Easter period, said anthropologist Ramiro Delgado.