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Stalking Chile, the Red Green-Iguana by Pam Bickell

I’ve taken care of Ms. Powers home and reptiles when she travels for a couple of years now. They all answer to their names and I know each of them personally, though I’m closer to some than to others. Chile, a reddish green iguana is young and pretty skittish. He was very nervous about me when he first came to live with Elaine, but after a while, he realized I was delivering daily deluxe salads and he stayed in one place as I set his salad plate inside his enclosure.

Though he ate his salad every day, I never saw him eating. It didn’t matter how many times I walked into the room, he was never near his food dish—but the food had disappeared.

I’m thinking, “Gumby arms?” And I decided to become a stalker.

Chile, the stalkee, however, did not cooperate, EVER. Food gone every day with no chewing action witnessed by me.

One day, I crept around the corner and HE HAD GREENS hanging from his mouth. I spun and ran for my phone camera. I KNEW I would be too late, but he was in the same spot. I slowed, acting casual, pretending like I didn’t see him. Then I snapped his picture! I was so proud of my stalking, I texted it to Elaine. She was proud of me, too. 😊

A reddish green iguana inside a cage, standing at a salad plate, with greens in his mouth.
Got ya, Chile!

A few days later, I walked into the room and Chile was chomping away at his salad. I thought of my camera, he looked up at me, and improbable as it sounds, he sent me a thought: “I LET you see me eating. You’re a really bad stalker. Take another picture if you want.”

So, I did.

a reddish green iguana standing on a log in his cage, chewing on salad greens
“I LET you see me eating. Duh!”

But never again will I stalk an iguana. They’re just too dang smart.

Lyric Power Publishing offers student workbooks and activity sheets for teachers, tutors and home schooling parents. One of them is a workbook all about the amazing creatures we call iguanas.

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Becoming “Auntie” to 19 Reptiles by Pam Bickell

It wasn’t easy becoming “Auntie” to Ms. Powers’ reptiles. After all, I was a mammal-gal and the closest I’d been to a reptile was loving the little green lizards our Mom bought my brothers and me at the fair in the 60s.

But Elaine needed someone to care for her 19 reptiles when she travels and mentioned it to me. I needed to work, and I’ve always been curious about and loved animals, so we set an appointment to meet them. I was nervous.

16 salad plates to feed to reptiles on a kitchen counter
Expert salad maker, am I!

We came around a corner into the room where two iguanas live: Chile and Calliope. Calliope is a four-year-old green iguana and at the sight of me, she hit every side of the cage, rocking it, apparently attempting a quantum leap to anywhere but the same room as me.

“Well, okay then,” I said. “Thanks for trying.”

“No, no. Hold on,” Elaine said. “She does that sometimes when she is startled. Give her a minute.”

We waited and she did calm down—but to this day, when I open her cage door to place her breakfast salad, she gives me the Calliope-glare and raises her tail just a bit to let me know that she is watching every move. She has never hit me with her tail, but my first couple of times caretaking, she did whip it in my direction. Still, I am the human who feeds her delicious salads when Elaine is away and she knows this. (Delicious salads are my love-bribe.)

I had so many questions when I became caregiver to Elaine’s beloved tortoises and iguanas:

Do they bite?

The iguanas might and it’s very painful, SO DON’T LET THAT HAPPEN.

You take the iguanas out of their cages to climb and wander. Will they try to escape when I’m here?

They’ll be a bit shy at first, but yup. 

Oh, dear.

Just be observant. Watch the legs for ‘springing’ action. Don’t open the doors then.

What if I think one of them is ill?

Call me right away. I’ll leave the vet contact info on the table. If, Fates forbid, one of them should die, you will have to remove the body from the cage, put it in a plastic bag and into the freezer in the garage.

But, that won’t happen, right? And how in the world would I get them to the vet?

Probably not. And in a carrier.

Oh, dear.

They’ll be fine. You’ll be fine. Don’t worry.

And we have been fine. Blue has escaped from his cage twice, and let me just say that when I stepped into the reptile room the first time and saw Blue on TOP of Rascal’s cage, I panicked. And I couldn’t get a hold of Elaine. Then I remembered I was the caregiver and I had to figure this out.

an adult male blue iguana hybrid standing on top of a cage
This is magnificent Blue. Looking pretty pleased with himself, isn’t he?

So I sat on Rascal’s cage near Blue and put my hand on his back. I petted him. I had touched him inside his cage before, but never like this. He climbed on my lap and licked me! (He has the sweetest little pink tongue.) And I must’ve jumped six inches off the cage! I apologized to Blue and then noticed his cage. He’d apparently chewed a hole in the side and it was not a big hole. I checked his skin and nothing was torn. I was wondering what to do, when I saw these little bungee cords.

I rolled Blue’s cage next to Krinkle’s cage and bungeed them together against the hole-side. Elaine called and actually laughed at me for being scared, and then proceeded to tell me where a sheet of plexiglass was to put against that same side of the cage. Then there was the matter of getting Blue back into his cage. Long claws grabbing cage bars beat my muscles, all day every day, so it took a while, but I finally got him back inside.

a close-up of an iguana's foot
See what I mean?

Everyone knows me now. I’ve given Myrtle, a Red-foot tortoise a bath, and helped Ezra, the older green iguana, go to the bathroom. I give Stella her medicine in an orange slice every day. I have to hunt for the tortoises every morning to give them their salads and though you wouldn’t think they can disappear, they can! (And, Trevor, the turtle, who can climb up the screen door.) And they hide their food plates sometimes. The tortoises stand on my feet when they want to say hello.

I am an occasional visitor, but I am loved, well at least accepted, by a whole bunch of reptiles, whom I absolutely adore in return.

We never know where life is going to take us, do we?

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I, Curtis curly-tail, am Honored to Write for LPP

Hello, I’m Curtis Curly-tail of Warderick Wells Cay, in the Exumas of the Bahamas.

A yellow green curly-tail lizard stands behind a table on an island, with the words "Curtis Speaks" above him

I’m simply delighted that Lyric Power Publishing asked me to write some guest posts for their website. You see, I kind of owe them for making me somewhat famous. I really get to show off my perfect curly tail over at my You Tube Channel!

Let me start by introducing myself and my species.  I am a member of the Leiocephalus carinatus species. We are found in the Bahamas, Cuba and on the Cayman Islands. I am planning a trip to visit the Lime Lizard Lads on the Cayman Islands, who are the exact same species as me. Isn’t that incredible? What is curious is that the Bahamas has four other species of Curly-tail lizards, but my species is the only one to travel to the Cayman Islands.

We all like to live along the coast in dry areas. We’re called xerophilic or arid-loving. We live on the ground among rocks, shrubs and even pines, but my favorite spot is along the beach. I’ve noticed humans like the beach, too. Maybe I’ll see you there! And, If you’d like to join me on my wild adventures, the Curtis curly-tail series is available here.

Take care and talk soon!

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Song of the Iguana by Lori Bonati is Now Animated!

By Lori Bonati
https://loristory.wordpress.com

A rock iguana with a guitar, singing, on a sidewalk, near the road
Lizzie, the Rock Iguana, Rocks On!

I’ve written and recorded a song about iguanas. Read on to learn why my songwriting career has taken this reptilian turn.

My friend Elaine Powers is an author and biologist who lives and works with reptiles. Her pets include iguanas, tortoises, tegu lizards, and a turtle. She currently is actively involved in saving endangered iguanas in the Caribbean.

As Elaine explained to me recently, rock iguanas and spiny-tail iguanas living in Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and other islands have become endangered due to habitat loss and introduced (non-native) predators. Spiny-tails are sometimes consumed by humans. The Statia iguanas on St. Eustatius Island are threatened by hybridization with the non-native green iguana. Some iguanas, while warming themselves on asphalt highways, get run over by cars, either accidentally or for sport. And then there’s poaching for the pet trade. Elaine’s group is trying to educate the public about the importance of native iguanas to the local ecosystem.

After hearing about the plight of the iguanas, I decided to write a song about them. Elaine had the song animated by Anderson Atlas, and she posted it on her YouTube channel.

To see and hear the video, click the following link:

There’s even an iguana joke at the end of the song.

I’m hoping the song catches on in the Caribbean. Do they have some version of a Grammy there? Maybe a Caribby? I’d settle for a paid vacation. But the real prize would be helping the iguanas to survive and thrive on their native island homes.

I’d love to hear your comments, and sharing is always appreciated!

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Changing Lives, One Book at a Time By Dave Reynolds and JoAnne Pope

LEARN Lab/Superior Court Probation

an escaped rock iguana stands on top of another cage
Blue loves to escape at home, too.

We were visited by Elaine Powers, the author who donated a stack of her picture book Don’t Make Me Fly, which presents facts about one of Arizona’s most iconic birds – the roadrunner. Along with writing picture books about animals native to southern Arizona, she’s a conservationist and retired biologist. Elaine brought several rescued friends: turtles and tortoises of varying sizes, including a 100-pound tortoise named Duke who roamed the Lab. She also brought Blue, a five-foot blue iguana (who broke out of his box to say hi), and Krinkle, a three-foot spiny iguana who was saved and bears a deformed body. The students learned ecology, biology, the importance of conservation, proper animal care, and the steps needed to map out a story.

Students who are normally silent and impassive came alive as they held reptiles and learned in a way that videos and lectures could never emulate. One student in particular, who rarely smiles, sat for nearly half an hour with a grin as Krinkle was content to nap in his arms. The LEARN literacy program is growing and evolving, and the effects are tangible. Through it all, with the correct books, students feel validated, seen, and know that their lives and experiences matter. It increases their comfort and trust in our program and allows them to open up and learn in a way they haven’t before. These days, if you ask a South LEARN student about their favorite book, you just might get an answer. And, though they may not realize it, they’re a step further from that jail cell.