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
I inherited my mother’s house, which is in an RV Resort in
Ft. Myers, FL. Every year, I travel there at Christmastime to perform in each
year’s original Cantata, composed by a very talented woman, Ruth Rodgers, and
her husband, Dr. Ted Rodgers. I directed the orchestra, sang, played the
trumpet and thoroughly enjoyed the celebration. Sadly, 2017 was the final
That meant, however, that this past Christmas, I could fully participate in the park’s holiday potluck dinner. A gift exchange takes place every year—you know, the kind where everyone gets a number and as each number is called, that person selects a gift. The fun part is, they may keep the gift they chose or trade for one another person has already selected. Some gifts are traded (grabbed!) repeatedly until the numbers finally run out.
I decided to take the collection of my “Don’t” series books (Don’t Call Me Turtle, Don’t Make Me Fly, and Don’t Make Me Rattle) as my gift. I also took along some Southwestern-themed wrapping paper and tape since I didn’t know what supplies were in the house. I brought some yummy Tortuga rum cakes from my travels to the Cayman Islands. I was ready.
Cold feet struck that afternoon. Was bringing my own books the right thing to do? Geez, maybe I should have brought something more
appropriate. I searched the house for something I could substitute, but
there was nothing. Fate determined the “Don’t” series books would be my gift.
One of my neighbors greeted me at the door that evening . “Is
this one of the books you’ve written?”
I confessed it was.
His reply? “I know what gift I’m choosing.”
Sure enough, his number was called and he selected my gift. I was honored and delighted that he wanted my books.
His number was called early, but his possession of the books was short lived. A few numbers later, a woman took the books from him. Then a few more numbers, and another woman selected the books—and so on!
My books were one of the most desired gifts of the evening. It was both engaging and rewarding to know that my efforts to make science education fun are working. I hope to inspire many future scientists by creating books written in rhyme, filled with scientific facts, that children and their parents truly enjoy reading.
I’ve experienced many earthquakes, small and large. I confess, I rather enjoy them.
My first experience was when visiting Alaska as a child with
my parents. Little did I know that was just the beginning. Unfortunately, apparently
because they don’t distress me, I tend to sleep through the ones that happen at
night. I’d much prefer to be awake!
Despite the movement of the tall Japanese hotel we were
staying in, I slept through a sizeable earthquake there. My parents told me
about the swaying in the morning and explained that the hotel was designed to
go with the earth’s movement, instead of
The most surprising earthquake occurred when I lived in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I had a nice apartment with my beloved 55-gallon salt-water aquarium. The aquarium sat in my dining room area, near where I worked at the table. I was writing when I felt the earth move. Surprised, I realized there had just been an earthquake. How cool, I thought. I was delighted until I looked over at the aquarium.
Fifty gallons of salt water were sloshing in a large wave, back and forth, just like the building in Japan! The wave was strong enough that I was afraid the glass would shatter. On impulse, I ran over and embraced the tank as if I could calm the waves and hold the glass together. The fish and I were greatly relieved when the energy of the wave subsided and their home remained intact.
To learn more about geology and rocks, please see Lyric Power Publishing’s supplemental workbook, My Book on Rocks.
Green iguanas are tree dwelling lizards. They are very good climbers and will climb on anything to get to a high location, like book shelves, windows and heads—and by heads, I mean mine. People often ask me why I don’t have pierced ears. It’s because when climbing to the top of my head, the iguanas use my ear lobes as convenient toe holds. My lobes have been ripped open three times by long claws attached to strong leg muscles. I don’t want them to have an existing ear-hole for better ripping.
I often find my iguanas hanging out on top of window blinds, display cases or on my piano. When I want to find them, I know to look up, since the iguanas are usually nestled among the display items. Interestingly, the green iguanas can climb over breakable objects without disturbing them, but if they know you are coming to pick them up, they’ll send everything flying with a swoosh of their tails!
The most impressive climbing was done by my iguana, Algae. Being a young iguana, she had sharp, pointed claws. One day, I looked all over the house but couldn’t find Algae. Had she gotten out or slipped down a vent somehow? After searching everywhere I thought she could possibly hide, I looked up.
She was hanging upside down from the ceiling! After the surprise passed, I have to say that I was very proud of my young friend, Algae.
Have you ever seen a video of marine iguanas sneezing? They’re usually perched on rocks after their feeding swims, basking in the warm sun. Suddenly, iguana after iguana starts sneezing. A narrator explains this is how the marine iguanas rid their bodies of salt. Humans get rid of extra salt in their urine, but iguanas, all kinds, expel extra salt by sneezing it from nasal salt glands. Now you know: When you see an iguana sneezing, he doesn’t have a cold.
The sneezed salt is called “snalt.” It comes out as a spray that covers everything in its way. It dries as crystals around the iguana’s nostrils and is easily brushed off—of them. On other surfaces, however, it can be quite difficult to remove. Glass requires a glass cleaner, soapy water, and sometimes, a sharp blade to scrape it off. Snalt corrodes metals just like saltwater!
One of my favorite iguanas, Algae, would stick her nose into my ear to sneeze. (I think she was trying to clean the wax out of my ears.)
One more cool fact: It’s not only iguanas that sneeze salt—roadrunners do, too!
Lyric Power Publishing offers workbooks for teachers, parents and tutors to supplement student education. Here is a link to our fun and interesting Unit on Iguanas.
We’re starting a new category for posts at Tails, Tales,Adventures, Oh, My! today. We’re calling it Living with Reptiles.
I Live with a Menagerie of Reptiles, by Elaine A. Powers, Author
People think living with mammals or even birds is perfectly normal, but tell people you live with reptiles and they look at you strangely. I don’t understand this. Dogs bark, cats meow, and birds squawk. Fish might seem quiet but then you have the noise of the bubbler. Reptiles make the perfect, quiet pets and most sleep through the night right along with you. What could be better than that?
I do have stories to tell.
Tortoises Noises are Targeted—At Me!
I know I just said reptiles make quiet pets, but there are
always exceptions to the rule.
I have a creep of red-foot tortoises roaming around my home. (Creep is the collective noun for tortoises.) You can hear the slik, slik, slik sound of their feet moving on the tile, but red-foots are known for being noisy breathers. And I don’t think it’s just breathing—I think they are talking to each other. When I get home after along trip, when I’m travel-tired and trying to fall asleep, they gather beside my bed and whisper to one another for . . . hours. I’ve decided that means they’re happy I’m home. I am happy to be home—I miss them, too!
On a typical day, they allow me to sleep peacefully through the night—until dawn, that is, when they decide to scratch their apparently itchy shells on the metal frame of my bed. Back and forth, back and forth. This is a very effective way to encourage me to get up and prepare their breakfast salads.
The other day I was on the phone for an important business call. I hear this loud, scrunching sound behind me. Myrtle Tortoise had knocked over my paper grocery bag filled with other paper bags. She crawled inside, crunching the bags, crushing them, sliding them about, etc. Needless to say, it was quite noisy. Because I had to focus on the call, I couldn’t go and grab her until the conversation was over. As soon as I hung up the phone, Myrtle ceased her excavation of the bags.
“Just a coincidence,” I thought I heard her think as she strolled away. 😊
Elaine A. Powers is the author of Don’t Call Me Turtle, thanks to Myrtle, who asked her to write the book.
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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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