The Green Iguana

Fiji Sun - - Ajay Bhai Amrit - AJAY BHAI AMRIT SUVA Edited by Ru­si­ate Mataika The writer is a Fiji Sun colum­nist Feed­back: jy­otip@fi­jisun.com.fj

Dur­ing my trav­els I have en­coun­tered many dif­fer­ent types of wildlife and this week I will in­tro­duce you to the green iguana, which I found to be very docile even though it may look very fierce and threat­en­ing. The green iguana is part of the an­cient iguana fam­ily and found in many parts of the world in­clud­ing on some of the Is­lands of Fiji. It should not be mis­taken for the Fiji banded Iguana or the very rare and en­dan­gered Fiji crested iguana. The green iguana is found in Cen­tral and South Amer­ica as well as parts of Africa, it is mostly a her­bi­vore pre­fer­ring feed­ing on lush veg­e­ta­tion and eat­ing ex­otic trop­i­cal fo­liage. Although they are called green igua­nas but they can ac­tu­ally vary in many colours and shades as they be­come adults. The colour de­pends on many vari­ances which are its mood, tem­per­a­ture, health and sur­round­ing shrub­bery. Its size varies but can be up to one me­ter in length; but the tail will take up the ma­jor­ity of its size. Typ­i­cally they can weigh any­thing from one to four kilo­grammes, which make them very nim­ble and fleet footed when the need arises. The green iguana is most com­monly found in tree tops where they are safest and also are of­ten found near water. Be­ing ag­ile climbers the Iguana can fall up to 15 me­tres and land un­hurt, they use their hind leg claws to clasp leaves and branches to break a fall. Dur­ing cold, wet weather, green igua­nas some­times pre­fer to stay on the ground for greater warmth. In­ter­est­ing when swim­ming, an iguana re­mains sub­merged, let­ting its four legs hang limply against its side. They in­stead pro­pel through the water with pow­er­ful tail strokes. Un­for­tu­nately this species of Iguana is found to be an ideal pet due to its calm dis­po­si­tion and bright colours, but don’t be fooled it can be very de­mand­ing to care for prop­erly. It firstly re­quires a good amount of space to be able to move around. Then there is the need for spe­cial light­ing and a reg­u­lated heat source which can be ex­tremely chal­leng­ing for an am­a­teur pet en­thu­si­ast. The pet trade has put a great de­mand on the green iguana and it is im­ported il­le­gally glob­ally for this very pur­pose. How­ever as said be­fore th­ese an­i­mals are de­mand­ing to care for prop­erly over their life­time, and many die within a short time once pur­chased. The green igua­nas in cap­tiv­ity will eat meat if pre­sented with it, but ex­ces­sive con­sump­tion of an­i­mal pro­tein re­sults in se­vere kid­ney prob­lems and pre­ma­ture death. An­other hor­ri­fy­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion passed onto pet own­ers is that they tend to feed igua­nas ice let­tuce, which pro­vides igua­nas with water but has no other nutri­tional value. A cap­tive green iguana’s diet should con­sist of fresh leafy veg­eta­bles and ac­cess to fresh water. Green igua­nas will thrive only in tem­per­a­tures of 26 to 35 de­grees Centi­grade and must have ap­pro­pri­ate sources of UVB and UVA light­ing, or else their bod­ies can­not pro­duce ad­e­quate Vi­ta­min D that pro­motes cal­cium ab­sorp­tion, which can re­sult in a meta­bolic bone dis­ease that can be fa­tal. You may be won­der­ing why I am stress­ing the point that Igua­nas in gen­eral should be left in their nat­u­ral habi­tat and the rea­son­ing be­hind this is the fact that ap­prox imately 5000 to 10,000 of th­ese ma­jes­tic an­i­mals are sold il­le­gally ev­ery week as pets in­stead of en­joy­ing a ful­filled life. They gen­er­ally end up dead through mis­in­for­ma­tion and neg­li­gence. The com­mon cause of death is a com­bi­na­tion of in­cor­rect diet and also in­ad­e­quate light­ing and wrong tem­per­a­ture. So fi­nally if you do know of any­one in our global vil­lage who is con­sid­er­ing to keep an iguana as a pet, please re­quest them to think it through and be aware of the chal­lenges ahead for both pet and owner.

Ajay Bhai Amrit with a green iguana.

The Green Iguana.

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