Green iguanas are native to Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean islands. These cold-blooded reptiles, commonly called lizards, are well-adapted to their natural habitat.
Iguanas have long claws to help them climb and hold on, yet they can drop from as high as 50 feet to the ground, or into water to escape predators. Though not generally endangered, they are in places like Belize where people hunt them for food, and for the pet trade. Adult females are especially at risk, prized for their meat, which natives call "bamboo chicken".
Black Pine is home to three iguanas, "Zilla" (left) and "LaRita" (right). The most recently adopted iguana, "Sarge" (below, left), arrived in August 2012. All were formerly kept as house pets. Zilla was surrendered by his previous owner. LaRita was placed at Black Pine at the request of a local veterinarian when his original owner abandoned her following a surgery to save her life. Sarge was given permanent refuge after being confiscated by Animal Care and Control in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Unfortunately, iguanas are readily available in the pet trade, but many people don't do their homework before acquiring one. Iguanas require specialized care that includes proper heat, UV lighting, and humidity, and plenty of room to move around. They are often aggressive as adults, making them unsuitable for being around children. They will grow to be up to seven feet long, too, much larger than many pet stores may advise.
Iguanas use their long tails as a whip for defense. They can lay a person's skin wide open with one tail whip! There are also documented injuries including complete removal of a finger from one woman when bitten by her pet. Their tails will grow back if bitten off by a predator or lost to injury, with no permanent damage.
InfoBox - Green Iguana
Status: Threatened in most regions; Endangered in Belize.
Diet in wild: flowers, fruits, insects, small vertibrates.
Life span in wild: 10-15 years.
Size: Up to seven feet, but usually four to six feet long.
Native habitat: Central Mexico, south into northern South America, and the Caribbean islands.