« | Home | »

Iguanas Unbound

Tags: |

On a visit to the Natural History Museum a few years ago, my eye was caught by a small exhibition of animal products confiscated by British customs officials: snakeskin belts, crocodile skin bags, wallets made from the skins of protected species, stuffed baby alligators, stuffed toads arranged around miniature pool tables, clutching cues. As if that wasn’t disturbing enough, I then noticed that at least half the exhibits seemed to come from Nicaragua, where I live.

Trussed, live iguanas and armadillos (which are at least sold as food) used to be a common site at Nicaraguan markets and roadside stalls, along with parakeets, green parrots, toucans and rare red macaws. In the tourist markets, stalls competed to sell the most grotesque animal displays: toads turned into cigarette cases and iguanas playing football were the least of it. My wife has often bought live iguanas or armadillos which we’ve then released on our farm.

Of course, it’s all too easy for us to take the moral high ground. I once stopped on the dirt road near our farm to admonish two boys with catapults, who, I thought, were taking pot-shots at birds. No, they said politely, they weren’t shooting at birds, they were hunting for lunch for their families.

But that was a few years ago. Stuffed exotica is gradually disappearing from the local tourist market. Roadside sellers stock domestic animals more often than wild ones. There are fewer children with catapults. The government recently passed an animal protection law, which will be difficult to enforce but is at least being well publicised.

And there are still places where the law isn’t even necessary. In the trees by the side of a mountain road in central Nicaragua I once saw in fairly quick succession a group of monkeys, a colony of squirrels and a family of two-toed sloths. I was so astonished that I stopped a couple of passers-by and asked them what they thought about the sloths being there. They were baffled by my questions and seemed not to have noticed the animals. I remembered the sloth we’d rescued from stone-throwing children in our community a couple of years ago: all it had wanted was to be ignored.

Comments on “Iguanas Unbound”

Comment on this post

Log in or register to post a comment.


  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • pgillott on Wishful Thinking about Climate Change: Phrases like “monumental triumph” and (particularly) “renaissance for humankind” are overdoing it, but to suggest that there is no chance of ...
    • UncleShoutingSmut on Goodbye, Circumflex: Unfortunately this post is likely to leave readers with a very partial idea of what is going on. Firstly, there is no "edict": all that has happened i...
    • martyn94 on The Price of Everything: If it's a joke at anyone's expense, it's surely at the expense of any super-rich who take it seriously. I used to skim it occasionally as a diversion ...
    • mideastzebra on Swedish-Israeli Tensions: Avigdor Liberman was not foreign minister November 2015.
    • lars hakanson on Exit Cameron: Europe will for good reason rejoice when the UK elects to leave. The country has over the years provided nothing but obstacles to European integration...

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

  • From the LRB Archive

    Chris Lehmann: The Candidates
    18 June 2015

    ‘Every one of the Republican candidates can be described as a full-blown adult failure. These are people who, in most cases, have been granted virtually every imaginable advantage on the road to success, and managed nevertheless to foul things up along the way.’

    Hugh Pennington:
    The Problem with Biodiversity
    10 May 2007

    ‘As a medical microbiologist, for example, I have spent my career fighting biodiversity: my ultimate aim has been to cause the extinction of harmful microbes, an objective shared by veterinary and plant pathologists. But despite more than a hundred years of concentrated effort, supported by solid science, smallpox has been the only success.’

    Jeremy Harding: At the Mexican Border
    20 October 2011

    ‘The battle against illegal migration is a domestic version of America’s interventions overseas, with many of the same trappings: big manpower commitments, militarisation, pursuit, detection, rendition, loss of life. The Mexican border was already the focus of attention before 9/11; it is now a fixation that shows no signs of abating.’

    James Meek: When the Floods Came
    31 July 2008

    ‘Last July, a few days after the floods arrived, with 350,000 people still cut off from the first necessity of life, Severn Trent held its annual general meeting. It announced profits of £325 million, and confirmed a dividend for shareholders of £143 million. Not long afterwards the company, with the consent of the water regulator Ofwat, announced that it wouldn’t be compensating customers: all would be charged as if they had had running water, even when they hadn’t.’

Advertisement Advertisement