Jan. 21, 2011 -- An Arizona restaurant known for serving tacos made from exotic meats is taking advanced orders for a particularly rare delicacy – lion meat.
Boca Tacos y Tequila, a Tucson Tex-Mex joint which in the past has served alligator, python and turtle tacos plans to put lion on its menu for one night only in February, provided enough diners express interest in chowing down on the big cat.
Since news of the offering hit the internet Thursday, Bryan Mazon, the restaurant's owner said he has received hundreds of phone calls, but very few orders.
"I'm getting more calls to tell me to go to hell and drop dead, but there's an interest out there," said Mazon, who said he's received nine orders so far for the tacos, which he plans to sell for $8.75 a piece.
Mazon says he is purchasing the lion meat from a California farm he says raises the animals for meat.
"From what I understand these are all farm raised in the USA for consumption. We serve exotic meats. We didn't go looking to serve lion, but it became available to us through a vendor."
According to the World Wildlife Fund, African lions – unlike tigers - are not an endangered species and are legally allowed to be raised on farms and sold for meat.
"Lions are not endangered. When bred in captivity, their meat is allowed to be traded. There are particular operations in the U.S. that are breeding lions, butchering them and selling them for meat," said Crawford Allan, regional director for TRAFFIC - the regional office of the largest international wildlife trade monitoriing program.
Provided those companies comply with international treaties, federal regulations and USDA standards, they can legally raise and butcher lions, Allan said.
Critics, some of whom are misinformed about the lion's current status on the endangered species list, took to Boca's Facebook page to vent.
"You guys are pathetic," wrote one user, whose message was soon removed by the restaurant.
Mazon says the criticism won't cause him to cancel the promotion, but a lack of interest might.
"It really depends on how the orders turn out. If there's enough interest, we'll go ahead with it. This is what we do. If people want it, we'll serve it," he said.
Mazon said he typically orders 2 to 3 pounds of meat for his monthly Wednesday night exotic meat promotions.
According to the website of Exotic Meats Market, a distributor in Perris, Calif., lion tenderloin sells for $199.99 and three 16 ounce burgers for $59.99.
"Our African Lions are raised in USA, USDA inspected and legal," according to the site.