“I’ll give you a paca if you buy me some rice, beans, sugar and coffee”. Iranildo just returned from an area upstream, in the middle section of Xeruini River, where most of the villages go hunting. Hunting has been forbidden in Brazil since 1967 – for any species of wildlife – with the only exception of those who live in “settlements” and hunt for food. Us, involved in eco-tourism, that highly value untouched corners of the rainforest where fauna can be spotted and photographed easily. Most of eco-tourists would freak out seeing some villagers on Rio Branco slaughtering turtles, grabbing their eggs to make Arabú, or shooting tapirs, anteaters, pacas, armadillos or guans. The alternative? Well, there’s a store in Terra Preta that belongs to a lady from neighboring village. Prices are not just above average, even for a remote place like this. An average 4-5 pound frozen chicken in town will cost anywhere between 15 and 25 Brazilian Reais, which at the current exchange rate would be 3-5 U$. The lady sells the smallest chicken (about 3,5 pounds) for 38 Reais and right before I left for Manaus people were told price was going up to 42. A dozen eggs goes for the price of 3 dozens in town, canned sausage is as expensive as best beef cuts I can get in my buddy’s store in Santarém. Well, Santarém is a thousand miles from us, I’ll go with a paca. “People won’t raise chicken because you need to plant corn to feed them. And anyone who’s ever tried to open a store here would face black magic and all kinds of curses from the lady that owns this store (yes, it’s a real concern). So, when we can’t hunt, we pay this,” – Leide aka “Preta” was boiling paca I got from her cousin in water with cashew tree leaves to get rid of the excess of salt – the animal’s meet came a long way with no ice under burning sun of the equator, so, that was the treatment. It was then fried on tapir oil. Yes, a few months ago, Doca, Leide’s husband went hunting and shot a tapir. Bringing a tapir into the village in some cultures (like Zoe people) is followed by the ritual of introduction. You kill a tapir – you’re not a boy anymore. Probably because a tapir is so big and can provide the whole village with food. It is, in fact, a better way to declare a newly matured man than in some other cultures I’ve heard of. In the past, Munduruku people required to bring the heads of ten people from a rival tribe. Maybe that’s why Mundurukus conquered the whole Amazon basin at some point. Other tribes do that glove thing with bullet ants and other insects. If there was a choice, I’d go with a tapir. It’s comforting to think that you’re an apex predator along with black caiman and jaguar around here. The tapir Doca killed a little while ago gave his family and many others in the village a total of over 20 gallons of melted fat, which is a healthier, tastier and definitely cheaper alternative to soy.