Advice from an Iguana

Animal Advice Article

Image by Mason Jones

     It’s winter in Florida, and I’ve climbed up a palm tree when – THUMP. I’ve dropped from a branch, and I’m lying on the ground, immobile. Iguanas like me can survive falls of 40-50 feet, but when it’s too chilly outside, we can’t move.

     I’m a cold-blooded animal which means I can’t control my body temperature. During frigid weather, my blood becomes so sluggish that I’m temporarily paralyzed. That’s why I fall from trees, stunned. When the temperature rises, I wake up.

     If you see me lying on the ground frozen, please don’t move me because I’ll be frightened when I wake up in a different place. Then I’ll defend myself by biting, clawing or whipping my tail. Trust me, an angry iguana is not a pretty sight. A man once rescued me and put me in his car. During the ride, I warmed up. I was so confused that I crawled on the man’s back, almost causing a wreck.

     So don’t pick up an iguana unless it’s absolutely necessary. Ellen Rosenberg, a South Florida Wildlife Rehabilitator, once removed me from her yard. She did it to prevent her dogs from tangling with me. I’ll always be grateful to her for saving my life. But I did hear her tell a friend, “If you must move an iguana, be very careful. They have unfriendly personalities and a nasty bite.”

     Maybe that’s why iguanas don’t always make good pets. Not only do we have a disagreeable attitude, but taking care of us is difficult. We require a large space because we can grow as long as 7 feet. We need branches to climb, lights to keep us warm, and fresh food and water daily. We live from 15-20 years which is a long time to have a pet. My owner didn’t realize that before she took me home. When I grew too large for my cage, she let me loose, and she wasn’t the only one who did that.

     There’s lots of us homeless iguanas living in the wild. In an effort to survive, we’ve done some things that have gotten us into trouble. We’ve destroyed plants in gardens and dug burrows near sidewalks and seawalls causing them to crack. To get warm, some of us crawled into stranger’s homes. A woman in Fort Lauderdale wasn’t happy when she discovered an iguana in her toilet bowl. Okay, that wasn’t one of my best plans. Unfortunately, that’s the sort of thing that can happen when lizards are released in areas where they don’t normally live.

     The solution is to choose pets carefully. Before a person brings an animal home, they should find out what type of care it needs and for how long. Knowing that will help people choose the right pet, one which will have a happy healthy life. After all, isn’t that what we all want?

     Brrr . . . Oh, no. Not again! THUMP.

Laura Boldin-Fournier is an animal-lover who lives in Florida. Her favorite place to write is near a window which allows her to watch lizards, birds, squirrels and rabbits in the field behind her home. Laura’s work has appeared in CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL books, other anthologies and mag- azines. She’s also the author of AN ORANGUTAN’S NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, a humorous children’s book in which animals receive gifts. She speaks at schools, libraries and literary events, and belongs to the SCBWI and the MWA.