introduce the techniques to the rural communities. Results to date indicate that wild iguana populations can be reestablished in 3 years, after which harvesting can begin.
Our calculations show that meat production from iguanas matches that of cattle. Beef production may be higher in the first years after the forest is cleared to create pasture. However, the annual cattle yield drops to 15 kilograms per hectare after 10 to 15 years because the quality of the pasture is lower. By comparison, the results of the Iguana Management Project indicate that iguanas could provide a sustainable yield of more than 230 kilograms per hectare annually. Moreover, iguana management has the potential to maintain or to improve soils on land degraded by intensive cultivation or cattle ranching. Production costs are estimated at $0.66 per kilogram, and the meat is presently sold (albeit illegally) for between $1 and $6 per kilogram. A secondary benefit of iguana management is that simultaneous reforestation with high-quality lumber and fruit trees could also become attractive. Development of a reforestation scheme including plant species that also support iguana populations could yield a harvest of iguanas after 5 to 6 years and thus provide an early return that compensates for the reforestation investment.
The paca is a large nocturnal rodent related to the guinea pig and is native to the broad-leaved forests of Central and South America. Its meat is very highly prized by people of both rural and urban populations. An adult paca weighs about 10 kilograms, 60 to 70% of which is edible meat. Domestication of pacas could provide an inexpensive supply of high-quality meat for local consumption or for use as a cash crop. The purposes of this project are to evaluate the possibilities of breeding pacas in captivity and to develop techniques that rural people can use for captive management. Once regular captive breeding is established, the process of domestication should follow as a matter of course. Some characteristics of the paca favor domestication; some do not (Smythe, 1987). Precocial young undergo a period of early learning that makes individuals very easy to tame. In addition, the animals subsist on food that comes from the forest and thus would be inexpensive to acquire.
Among the characteristics that do not favor domestication are the fact that pacas naturally live in pairs that defend territories and are thus highly intolerant of other pacas. They are also strictly nocturnal, retiring to burrows or retreats, which are aggressively defended against other pacas or other potential intruders in the daytime. Furthermore, pacas generally produce only one or two young per year. (The fact that their natural reproductive rate is low does not necessarily indicate a low reproductive potential. Artificial selection to achieve the reproductive potential would be expected to occur early in the domestication process. The reproductive potential of a female paca should be between 12 and 16 per year.)
All young mammals are more socially tolerant than adults of the same species. By taking young pacas away from their mothers when they are only a few days old and raising them in contact with other pacas, animals have been taught to be nonaggressive toward other members of their own group. The goal is to raise them