While we in America are being slowly convinced and coddled into trying insect cuisine, in other parts of the world eating these critters is so popular that they are actually over-harvesting their supply of them and may lose these coveted treats for good. In Cambodia the tarantula is such a popular treat that they are in danger of being completely wiped out, and the price for one of these furry spiders has skyrocketed as their numbers have grown increasingly scarce. Unchecked hunting and deforestation are a major threat to this much-loved Cambodian delicacy. You probably didn’t ever expect to hear that people actually love these creepy crawlies so much that they would actually eat them until they were extinct.
Skun, Cambodia is a town in central Cambodia that is often referred to by outsiders as “Spiderville.” This is due to the biggest tourist attraction it offers, garlic fried tarantulas for anyone brave enough to take a bite out of one of these plump arachnids. Squealing tourists can get a photo-op they would be hard pressed to find available in their own country, the chance to record themselves as they take big bite out of a big hairy tarantula. While this draws in numerous tourists, locals make up the bulk of the clientele.
The garlic fried tarantulas, called “aping”, are a traditional and popular local snack. Aping, which are famous in Cambodia, have become much more expensive and scarce according to vendors as rapid deforestation is wiping out the tarantula’s jungle habitat. Vendors like Chea Voeun, who has been selling aping for 20 years, used to be able to hunt for spiders in the nearby forests, digging them out of their burrows that dot the jungle floor. Since those forests have now been razed to the ground and turned into plantations, they now have to get their spiders from a middle man that are harvested from forests in distant provinces that still retain their lush jungles. This decrease in product has jacked up the price of these spiders to ten times what they were just a decade ago. This is helping the vendors earn some extra cash in the present, but they fear it will ultimately lead to their downfall when the product runs out, killing their business in the end. Tourists may shake in fright at the thought of eating one of these fried spiders, but the Cambodians fear its extinction.
Have you ever tried a bite of any kind of insect, fried or otherwise? Can you imagine liking insects and eating them so much that you would actually fear their demise?