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Hunting Iguanas in Pakistan: Iguana Suet Sellers

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The traffic is Rawalpindi is very lively. There are interesting looking vehicles that can be spotted from miles away. Minibuses are decorated almost like they are competing with trucks, authentic looking mini trucks known as “Çinçi”. and motorcycles that have turned into rickshaws. It seems like they are there to decorate the streets when in fact they are just commuting from one place to another.

Ibrahim Salim rides a rickshaw for living. He works and lives with his family in the neighboring city of Islamabad after vehicles like the rickshaw got banned due to its degrading outlook in the capital. There are no specific stations or gathering places for the rickshaw to stop over at Rawalpindi.

Rawalpindi, Pakistan

Ibrahim Salim leaves his house early in the morning and drives from one edge to another edge of the city several times until the late hours of the night. Ibrahim and his rickshaw’s route start whenever and wherever he finds a customer. A tourist lifts his hand.

Rickshaw

He wants to go to the Raca Bazaar. It is a historical place where food, clothing, ornaments, gifts, and many other things are sold. It’s the number one historical place and main attraction for tourists of Rawalpindi. The Raca Bazaar shouldn’t be observed as one particular place because it’s simply a shopping neighborhood made up of roads and never-ending lively streets.

The Raca Bazaar

Its Ibrahim’s lucky day, another customer lifted their hand. The place where this customer wants to go is much more interesting. He is looking for a medication that’s been produced for many years in this region. His mother has been complaining about her endless back and joint pain. So he decided to try his luck by finding a magical potion known for healing pains in this district. One of the merchants who produce this medication is setting up his stand for his livelihood. Rickshaw drops him off exactly to where he wants to go. The reason why the iguanas look like their paralyzed is because their backs are broken.

The animals are not able to move entirely around but are able to make slight extents of movements. He starts visiting the stands and decides on the one he would like to shop from. Sacrificing an iguana shouldn’t be considered much relief for his mother’s chronic pain. Mohammed Eslem Shikari, who is an iguana oil seller, acts very mature and understanding. The iguanas function as a living organ container which keeps the main ingredient for this magical potion fresh until a later date. The sickness is diagnosed. The street doctor and sidewalk pharmacist Eslem can confidently prepare the medication. They respectfully wait for the iguana to die after being cut from the throat.

Iguana for the medication

Meanwhile, Eslem starts up a fire using his mini oven to prepare his magical pan. To create the most accurate formula for the medication, Eslem asks his customer to further explain his mother’s illness descriptively. The only part of the iguana that is added to the medication which is well-known for its use as an aphrodisiac is its suet. Iguana’s who don’t consist of its suet are sold to the pharmaceutical industry for one dollar.

Iguanas

The melted suet is mixed with various spices in the hot pan. The essential ingredient of this medication is the suet of the iguana which is very effective. It can also be used for curing paralyzed people along with bone, joint, and arterial illnesses. Other ingredients added such as various powders, herbs and spices change according to the illness the patient has. The only thing that doesn’t change is the suet of the animal.

Medication is the suet of the iguana

While the hopeful customer puts the healing medication into his pocket, Mohammed Eslem hands out informative flyers to people who curiously watched him prepare the medication. He is now going to have a small meal in gratitude to his success.

A small meal

Eslem starts to slowly gather and close his stand after preparing medications for a couple more customers. He must prepare and get lots of rest for tomorrow’s big iguana hunting party. The next day the iguana hunting gang made up of four people, Eslem being the leader, met up early in the morning. They are going walk a fairly long way to reach the main street. It is a walk that lifts their spirits to take their job seriously in the hot climates of Pakistan.

The Indian originated, Rajput tribe came to these lands before the Pakistani government was formed. Eslem is a member of this tribe. Iguana hunting is also a part of the tribe. He grew up listening to his grandfather’s iguana hunting stories. It seems like the weather is getting hotter as the road extends. The need to cool off reaches its peak for the gang. They finally reached the main road. Now they have access to numerous amounts of vehicles because they’re going to use a traditional method which was invented when cars were formed: Auto stop.

Auto stop in Pakistan

The gang finally reached the hunting grounds after a four hour long and hard trip. The operation is about to begin: however, they must do one last thing. Haji Melik Server owns lands that spread as far as the eye can see. Without his consent and permission a bird cannot even fly pass the property. Hajji Melik Server seems like he’s in a good mood today. Mohammed Eslem stopped his team and reminded them of a spiritual ritual. As they get closer to the hunting grounds, they’re to pray for blessing and luck.

This region is considered as a desert compared to the overall green geography of Pakistan. Simply put, it is a land in the steppe landscape. Mohammed Eslem and his friends scatter around the hunting grounds and start setting up their traps. There are essential materials needed to make an iguana trap: for every nest a branch and rope is needed. However, it must be placed in the right place for this mechanism to work. Firstly, the team must look for iguana nests, which are as small as coins.

Camels in Pakistan

Iguana suet sellers are also masters at hunting. They fill the area with traps. Every traps works in the same way a sailors knot works. It does not matter which direction the iguana goes after it gets caught because it gets trapped in the rope, which tightens around its neck. It is a simple but very refine system. But, is it equally effective? Iguanas are animals that prefer to rest in their nests instead of roaming outside.

However, the high temperatures become unbearable when the sun shines on top of their homes. They can also be after small insects or water found on the roots of plants in this scorching weather. Iguanas go out hunting for food during the fiery afternoons. However, they will most probably be hunted when they return to their nests. At least some of them. No one knows when they will return. The gang has nothing better to do than wait.

Hunting iguana nests

Eslem realizes something but to make sure he must concentrate on that specific spot. He later quickly steps into action while calling his friends at the same time. The branch of the trap is covering the hole of the iguanas nest signaling that they caught an iguana. It’s the first catch of the day which is important for them to keep their luck ongoing. The team is very alert and careful.

Now the first set of iguanas caught are coming out of their nests. Eslem and his friends’ hard work are now paying off. They share the joy after working as a team to take out the hunted animals. Another trap seems to be full but it’s impossible to be sure of what is in it. How can we be sure it’s not a snake that has paid a visit to the iguanas nest?

The iguanas nest

Their curious eyes are focused on their skilled hands and everyone’s guard is up. With every strike the hunters get closer to the outcome. It is another iguana that has been caught by its tail. Eslem and his friends take a deep breath. After pulling the animal from its nest they inspect thoroughly with their skilful hands. The suet of the iguana is considered the same as a camel’s suet according to the sellers. It helps the animal live for a long period of time without consuming anything from the outside. The hunters luck continues to grow but they are being very cautious in not jinxing it. Iguanas whose abdominal area isn’t fat enough are set free. In fact they are encouraged to be set free.

Meanwhile the hunting journey continues. Catching iguanas can sometimes be done in the heat of the moment. These reptiles can become the masters of sprinting and hiding if they manage to slip out of the hunters hands. It is impossible to pull out an iguana that is holding on to soil with their nails instead the hunters must dig through the soil to catch them. However, if this job isn’t done professionally the animal could be split into two. The hunter shares his excitement any joy with the hunted. Almost all of the traps were full which filled the bags. Now Eslem wants to celebrate the success of their hunting journey in the river.

Journey in the river

For ages iguana suet sellers have hunted iguanas themselves, and since then they have cured and given hope to ill people…

Please note there are few words and names you probably didn’t know:
Rawalpindi is a city in the Punjab province of Pakistan.
Ibrahim is the Arabic name of the prophet and patriarch Abraham.
Salim is a given name of Arabic origin meaning safe, or undamaged.
Mohammed is a male given name alternative spelling of Muhammad.
Eslem is a given name of Arabic origin meaning strong, stronger or strongest.
Hajji is a title which is originally given to a Muslim person who has successfully completed the Hajj to Mecca.
Melik is the semitic term translating to king.
Server is a given name of Persian origin meaning chairman, or chief.
Bazaar is a street where goods and services are exchanged or sold or permanently enclosed marketplace.

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