Have you noticed that at this time of year, people celebrate a mid-March holiday by wearing green clothes, hanging green decorations, and eating green foods and drinking green beer? They must be celebrating Green iguana Day!
Ever since I operated a reptile rescue center, I’ve had a good number of iguanas. Over ninety percent of newly purchased iguanas die within the first year, so their good health is very important to me. Fresh Vegetables and fruits are important to their survival.
I use a potato peeler to make long slices of zucchini and carrots and chop the other veggies into small pieces.
Above is a list of basic vegetable and fruits and the special treats that can be given on an occasional basis.
Their basic salad in the morning includes Collard Greens, Red Bell Peppers, Zucchini, Carrots, and Bananas or Grapes.
To learn more about these fascinating big lizards, see our 30-page downloadable Supplemental Workbook, My Unit Study on Iguanas.
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 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.
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.
It turns out that not all green iguanas are the same color. They come in all shades of green and I once had a black-and-white green iguana. Noting color differences encourages breeders to try to bring out the less common colors. Albino green iguanas have now been produced and today, blue (blue axanthic) and red morphs are available.
Chile is a red morph green iguana and her red color is constant, not like some male iguanas who turn orange during breeding season. One nice thing about these morphs is you know they are captive bred and were not taken from their native wild environment.
I operated a reptile/iguana rescue in New Jersey, and I only had green iguanas there. I like green iguanas and each one is an individual. But I hoped to someday rescue other kinds of iguanas, as well, like rock iguanas or spiny-tails. I was on reptile speed-dial with many rescues and animal control departments in the Tri-State area, and one day I got a call about a “black iguana.” The animal control officer had never seen one before and really didn’t know what to do with him, so they called me. I knew what a black iguana was! I told them I was on my way and that’s how my buddy, Krinkle, came into my life.
Krinkle is a Ctenosaura similis, commonly known as a black or spiny-tail iguana in the pet trade. However, they are also known for being difficult to socialize. In Krinkle’s case, this was especially true because he had been badly abused. The family who owned him had surrendered him after he had bitten every member. Good for him!
This adult male iguana who should be four to five feet long
was kept in a five-gallon aquarium for the first five years of his life. Some
people think that if you keep an iguana in a small tank, they will remain
small. Actually, they die.
Krinkle’s body sacrificed its back half to allow the front half to grow. So, when he was removed from the tight confines of the much too small tank, his tail was accordioned to about four inches, instead of the expected 24 inches. His hips were shrunken. When I first got him, he couldn’t walk. Over time his legs strengthened and he learned to walk, but is still not able to run. The compaction of his tail has eased but it is seriously curved, which is why I named him Krinkle. My mom used to call him Twizzler.
Krinkle’s kind are not known for being friendly. However, he
is so happy to be free of his first family, he has never shown any aggression
toward anyone since. I take him for ‘Show and Tell’ to schools and he is so
calm, Kindergarten students can pass him around and hold him.
Krinkle is now a member of my family and shares the reptile room with Rascal, a tegu; Stella and Ezra, green iguanas; Reginald, a rhino iguana; and Blue, a blue iguana/rock iguana hybrid, along with Big Boss, Duke, a 115 lb. Sulcata tortoise, who likes to move the iguana enclosures wherever HE wants them to be. 😊
After Algae and Jubby starred in the Corazon Tequila commercial,
I was asked to provide a socialized iguana for a Broadway show. They wanted a
lizard who would live in a glass aquarium on stage for the six-week run and be
fed crickets during the show. Since iguanas are herbivores and I didn’t want
any of my very large family members to be stuck in a glass tank for two months,
I suggested other kinds of lizards that would be more suitable.
They ended up using a basilisk, purchased from the local pet
shop. The basilisk did a wonderful job and eventually found his forever home
with the stage manager.
A few months later, I was contacted by a movie studio. A socialized iguana was needed for an indie film. The iguana was to sit on the back of the sofa and allow the actor to pet and interact with her. It involved a limited time commitment and I had several friendly candidates. I agreed to have my igs screen tested. However, the assistant called back and said the iguana scenes had been cut. The director had overspent his budget and they could no longer afford to hire one of my girls.
I don’t know which one would have been selected had they moved forward, but I was already looking forward to her being a movie star!
To learn more about these amazing giant lizards, see our 30-page teacher,parent or tutor workbook “My Unit Study on Iguanas,” for Grades 2-4.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
As a human companion to my reptiles, I want to know that they are eating well and, hopefully, enthusiastically. Quite often, a new or young reptile, such as my green iguana, Chile, is not comfortable being observed while eating. The only way I can tell that Chile has successfully consumed her meal is by looking at the empty bowl, without vegetables scattered about the enclosure.
I can understand a prey animal’s reticence about being observed eating. The iguana might be susceptible to a predator if not careful. So, it’s best to eat when no one is watching, and return quickly to a place of safety. Of course, inside the enclosure is a pretty safe place, but the iguana doesn’t always know this, especially when another larger iguana (like my Calliope) climbs up and sits on top of it.
Yet, with patience and perseverance, the stalking photographer can eventually catch the elusive eating iguana in the act!
Once the situation had calmed down from the Jimmy debacle,
the director asked me what iguanas should be used. I started with my first and
well-socialized iguana, Noel. I took her
out of her carrier and placed her on the table. She immediately tried to leap
off and back to the carrier. Despite her willingness to be the star of talks
and parades, Noel didn’t want anything to do with filming.
That left us with Algae and Jubby, both very calm iguanas. Jubby
was bigger so I placed her on the table,
where she sat quietly. So far, so good. I placed Algae on top of her, as
if they were mating. (If they had been mating, Algae would have been farther up
Jubby’s neck, but this was acting, so Algae’s position was acceptable.) We all held
our breath and Jubby and Algae held their positions.
This was going to work—in 15-second segments, because then each
iguana went her own way, flipping up a bit of moss each time. I moved to
replace the dislodged articles, but the scenic designer had that under
control. Over and over again, I placed
Algae on top of Jubby and each time they stayed while the director moved the camera on rails behind them.
Everyone was fascinated by these wonderful, incredible creatures. This went on
for three hours and the director was very pleased.
The Corazon Tequila
commercials were made to introduce different drink recipes. Jubby and Algae
were the stars of, “How to
Make a Green Iguana.” Not only were the iguanas
consummate performers, they were also the right colors for the ad. One iguana
was supposed to be blue and the other yellow. Jubby was a dark bluish-green
color and Algae had always been yellow-green. This made it easy for the digital
technician to further color them the appropriate shades.
The commercial starring my girls was aired nationally and was very popular with the viewers. I was paid a set amount for their participation. Next time I think I’m going to ask for residuals. 😊
Along with science, I enjoy performing, singing and acting.
I always toyed with the idea of getting an agent, but it simply never happened.
And despite all my performances, it was my iguanas who ended up with the acting
I lived in New Jersey at the time with several pet green iguanas. Corazon Tequila was filming four commercials, two of which would feature live animals. An educational program in the town up the road got a call to use one of their iguanas, Jimmy. The owner suggested that my iguanas would be more suited to the work, since they were well socialized. The director, however, really wanted to give Jimmy, a magnificent full-sized male, a chance. I was asked to bring Jimmy and my own iguanas, as well.
I selected Noel, Algae and Jubby, my most friendly and
cooperative girls. I got permission from my supervisor to take the day off. The
owner of a macaw picked us up early in the morning for the trip into Manhattan
to a real film studio. I had each iguana in a separate pet carrier for easier
transporting, which turned out to be a good thing as we wound our way through
the building to where the commercials were produced. We were settled into the
green room to wait our turn before the cameras. It was 8:00 a.m.
I decided to explore the facility. I had been in television
and radio studios before, but never an actual movie studio. An incredible buffet was set out for the
crew. Off in one area, a man was creating a delicious looking margarita with
non-edible ingredients. People were either very busy or waiting around. I
returned to the green room to wait my turn.
The green room had doors so after a while, I let the iguanas out of their carriers. They each found a place on the back of the sofa and hung out. The macaw sat in her cage beside the owner. Time ticked by and I had to use the rest room. I asked the macaw man to watch my igs while I was gone and he agreed. I made a quick trip, but when I got back, he told me never to leave my igs alone. They had panicked when I left the room! The next time I needed to use the restroom, I took them all with me.
The macaw’s appointment was first and off she went. Each commercial had a desired script. Unfortunately, the macaw hadn’t read the script. She just wouldn’t do what they wanted. Over and over the director tried—but nope. So, they changed the script and recorded what the bird was doing. It worked out well, but it did take ALL morning.
While we continued to wait, a hand model came into the room.
He was doing a final manicure of his nails. We talked about the iguanas—they
are always a conversation starter—but I wouldn’t let him near my igs. These are
animals known for their scratching and biting prowess and I didn’t want to
destroy his career! A little while later he went off to have his hand filmed
picking up that fake, but tasty looking, margarita.
In the afternoon, it was finally our turn. The four iguanas and I proceeded to the set. A table was set with rocks and moss in front of a blue screen. I was introduced to the animal welfare officer, who was on the set to ensure no harm came to the animals. The irony of this will become clear in the next paragraph.
I suggested using two of my females, but the director really
wanted to give Jimmy a try. I really tried to talk him out of it but as they
say, actions speak louder than words. Jimmy was a six-foot iguana who was not
socialized. He know how to use his four-foot tail effectively. I cautiously
picked Jimmy up to place him on the table. As soon as his feet hit the table,
he exploded. Thrashing iguana body, flying rocks and moss bits, with the startled
As Jimmy launched himself, I caught him mid-air and deftly
placed him back into his carrier. Of course, I had received a severe shredding,
but that can happen when you handle lots of large, tree-dwelling lizards. The
animal welfare person was concerned about my bleeding arms and insisted the
production stop while I received first aid. Despite assuring him I was fine,
that is what we did and this gave the crew a chance to rebuild the scenery on
Learn about our latest science-based children’s books and workbooks. Read here about reptiles, birds, cats in a variety of locations. Read the blog to learn how the books come to be, what inspires an author to write, and many more interesting aspects of the publishing business.
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