Ninh Thuan farmers bitten by a lizard bug

By Ngoc Thanh   December 17, 2019 | 04:48 pm GMT+7
Many sandy farms have sprung up in Ninh Thuan Province, breeding butterfly lizards that fetch more profit than pigs or poultry.
Butterfly lizard is a species native to Asia. They can be found in sandy coastal areas or deserts. In the recent five years, Ninh Thuan’s residents have been farming butterfly lizards to sell their meat to restaurants.

The butterfly lizard is native to Asia. They can be found in sandy coastal areas or deserts. Over the last five years, people in the Ninh Thuan Province on Vietnam's south-central coast have been farming butterfly lizards for their meat, which is mainly sold to restaurants.

Up to two hectares of land of 50 farms are dedicated to farming these reptiles in Hoa Thuy hamlet. When the weather is sunny and warm, the lizards crawl from their underground caves up to the ground for sunbathing while the hatchlings shed their skins.

Around 50 farms with a total area of two hectares are dedicated to farming these reptiles in Hoa Thuy hamlet. When the weather is sunny and warm, the lizards crawl from their underground "caves" to bask in the sun, while the hatchlings shed their skins.

Butterfly lizards’ favorite food is prickly pear, a wild plant in the area. The fruit is mixed with other home grown plants like banana trunk, corn, water spinach, drumstick leaves and fed to the lizards once a day.

The prickly pear, which grows wild in the area, is the butterfly lizards’ favorite food. The fruit is mixed with other plants like banana/plantain stem, corn, water spinach and moringa leaves and fed to the lizards once a day.

This is all it takes for a butterfly lizard farm. It comprises of an artificial sand dune - mimicking the lizards’ natural habitat to lure them in, which is surrounded by a 40 centimeters high wall to prevent them from escaping. Farmers said the job is less physically demanding than cows or poultry as the expense for their food is cheap and their meat is always in demand. Female lizards dig a hole one to two meters underground every October to lay eggs. Depending on their sizes, each can lay from two to ten eggs. The eggs hatch after 45 days. Butterfly lizard meat can be harvested after a year. Some quality hatchlings are kept for breeding.

This is all it takes for a butterfly lizard farm – an artificial sand dune that mimics the lizards’ natural habitat, surrounded by a 40-centimeter high wall to prevent them from escaping. Farmers say this job is less physically demanding than breeding pigs, cattle or poultry, as also less expensive, because their food does not cost much and their meat is always in demand. 

Female lizards dig a hole one to two meters underground every October to lay eggs. Depending on their size, each can lay from two to ten eggs. The eggs hatch after 45 days. Butterfly lizard meat can be harvested after a year. Some quality hatchlings are kept for breeding.

Butterfly lizards are harvested by digging underground or setting live traps. When mother lizards go overground after laying eggs, farmers would separate them from the hatchlings to prevent mature lizards from eating the youngs. Butterfly lizard farmer Trinh Ngoc Lang said that this land is a wind-heavy desert area so the people here cannot cultivate plants. Since food is limited, they have to resort to capturing wild butterfly lizards for food every spring. He noticed that farming butterfly lizards is relatively simple after years of raising them experimentally in his own garden. Hes been in the lizard farming business for six years, selling thousand for meat to earn a profit of around VND 80 million ($3,500) each year. 

Butterfly lizards are harvested by digging underground or setting live traps. When mother lizards go overground after laying eggs, farmers separate them from the hatchlings to prevent mature lizards from eating the young. 

Butterfly lizard farmer Trinh Ngoc Lang said that the land in the area was sandy and wind-swept, limiting planting options. Since food is limited, locals typically resort to catching butterfly lizards in the wild every spring. 

Lang tried raising some of them in his garden and found it was not too difficult. 

He's been in the lizard farming business for six years now, selling thousands of them for meat, earning about VND80 million ($3,500) in profit each year.

Fully-grown butterfly lizards weigh around 200 to 800 grams, retailing for VND45,000/kg ($1.95/kg). Farmers sell male lizards for meat while keeping the females for breeding. Their meat is white, fatty and soft.

Fully-grown butterfly lizards weigh around 200 to 800 grams, and retail for VND45,000 ($1.95) a kilo. Farmers sell male lizards for meat and keep females for breeding. Their soft and fatty meat is sought after by many diners.

Butterfly lizard meat are made into signature dishes of Ninh Thuan Province.

Grilled butterfly lizard is a Ninh Thuan specialty. Their meat is also added to salads.

 
 
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