Lost Andes Traveller Eats Rats to Survive
A man who had to set out into mountainous territory on foot in Chile after his motorbike broke down was able to survive for a four-month period by eating rats that he trapped.
Raul Fernando Gomez Circunegui’s original plan was to cross the mountains from Chile to Argentina on his bike, but he became lost during a snowstorm when he was forced to continue the journey on foot. By sheer luck, he was discovered and rescued by officials from Argentina some four months later when they were on a project to record recent snowfall levels.
The 58-year old Gomez was found in a makeshift shelter located over 9,000 feet above sea level. He told his rescuers that he was able to subsist on eating rats, along with some sugar and raisins he had taken with him in addition to a few supplies left over in the shelter. Gomez lost over 40 pounds during his ordeal in the mountains and his discovery is being hailed by government officials and local community members alike as nothing short of miraculous.
Although he is currently hospitalized with high blood pressure and being treated for malnutrition, he is expected to return home to Uruguay soon.
Uruguayan newspaper El Pais said a doctor who examined him was surprised by his resilience.
“He’s a patient with high blood pressure, a history of smoking and signs of undernourishment,” the doctor was quoted as saying.
“But he’s going to be fine and in a few days we’re going to discharge him.”
Though rat meat may sound unapitizating to people people, in some cultures, eating rats is common.
In some cultures, rats are or have been limited as an acceptable form of food to a particular social or economic class. In the Mishmi culture of India, rats are essential to the traditional diet, as Mishmi women may eat no meat except fish, pork, wild birds and rats.
Conversely, the Musahar community in north India has commercialised rat farming as an exotic delicacy.
In the traditional cultures of the Hawaiians and the Polynesians, rat was an everyday food for commoners. When feasting, the Polynesian people of Rapa Nui could eat rat meat, but the king was not allowed to, due to the islanders’ belief in his “state of sacredness” called tapu. In studying precontact archaeological sites in Hawaii, archaeologists have found the concentration of the remains of rats associated with commoner households accounted for three times the animal remains associated with elite households.
The rat bones found in all sites are fragmented, burned and covered in carbonized material, indicating the rats were eaten as food. The greater occurrence of rat remains associated with commoner households may indicate the elites of precontact Hawaii did not consume them as a matter of status or taste.
Would you eat rat meat if you had to?