SAN DIEGO (CN) – A Las Vegas man was sentenced to two years in federal prison for smuggling iguana meat into the United States, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Eliodoro Soria Fonseca, 38, admitted that he entered the United States from Mexico in June 2011 “with several coolers stuffed with iguana meat, concealed under fish,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement announcing the sentencing.
“Officers with Customs and Border Protection at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry ultimately searched the coolers, and found the beheaded, skinned, and deboned bodies of 115 iguanas (weighing 159 pounds) concealed inside. Fonseca acknowledged as part of his guilty plea that he intentionally concealed the iguana meat, which he knew he should declare to United States authorities,” prosecutors said in the statement.
The green iguana (Iguana iguana) is protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The CITES Appendix II list, which includes the iguana, covers species that are not yet endangered but may become threatened if trade in them is not controlled.
“According to sentencing documents filed in court, a full time researcher working for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Iguanas of the Priority Species Protection
Council in Mexico concluded that removing over 100 iguanas from the Nayarit area (where Soria Fonseca obtained these animals) essentially ‘means that the local population was technically wiped out,'” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
It added that iguana meat often contains salmonella bacteria, which can endanger human health.
Iguana is less popular as food today in Mexico than in former times.It does not taste like chicken.