Friday, August 12, 2011

Fatal Fantasies?

The crabs in this 'natural viagra' are said to be farmed sustainably.  
A story in El Tiempo the other day described how some Colombian native species are being driven to extinction by myths about their supposed magical - often sexual - powers.

Probably the best known of these myths is the berraquillo, a concoction containing milk, brandy, the fruit borojo and a live crab, all of which go into the blender. The result is called 'Natural viagra' for 'Savage Love' and you can find it in markets and street kiosks all around central Bogotá. I've tried it many times during bike tours and can vouch for its taste, with is a bit like a chocolate shake, but not for its effects, which are nil.

But El Tiempo reports that this drinking is driving the savannha crab, or Pseudothelphusidae, extinct. The sellers in the place where we buy the drink swear that their crabs are farmed sustainably in a reservoir near Bogotá.

Snails and slime for sale on a sidewalk. 
Snail slime, a cure for many ills?
Another animal often seen on Bogotá sidewalks are jungle snails, whose slime is supposed to cure skin ailments and erase scars. I don't know whether these creatures are endangered, nor have I heard of any animal rights protests in their defense. Apparently, people lack sympathy for mollusks.

Manatees: Doomed sex partners for people?
Also according to El Tiempo, the Cocama indigenous people have traditionally had sexual relations with manatees, river mammals, a practice which the Cocamas believe makes them better fishermen, cures domestic troubles and cleanses bodily organs. Sadly, afterwards the manatees die. Now, they say, outsiders have also taken up the practice, which is driving manatees toward extinction.

Howler monkey
Another victim of human fantasy is the howler monkey, which is killed for its throat bones. People believe that turning the bones into cups and drinking out of them cures iodine deficiency. Consuming iodized salt might be a more effective and humane alternative.

The coati, victim of its prized penis bone. 
Finally, reports El Tiempo, the ring-tailed coati, which resembles a racoon, is falling prey to hunters for its penis bone. The bone's dust is supposed to increase female libido and lengthen men's penises. Sounds likely.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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