Green iguana in captivity

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A young green iguana in bad housing conditions
A toilet trained iguana

The Green Iguana (Iguana iguana) has become popular in the pet trade – over 800,000 animals were imported into the United States alone during 1995, primarily originating from captive farming operations based in their native countries (Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia, and Panama).[1] In 1998 a National Iguana Awareness Day (NIAD) was established to discourage consumers from viewing iguanas as "disposable pets". Despite the low cost and "mass market" appeal of these animals they are demanding to care for properly over the course of their lifetimes, and many die within a few years of acquisition.[2]

Size[edit]

People purchase iguanas due to the small size, low price, and apparent low cost of feeding of juvenile iguanas. Though small as juveniles, iguanas can grow to six feet in length and weigh some 20 pounds.[3]

Diet[edit]

An iguana at the Henry Vilas Zoo, Madison, Wisconsin, USA

Although they will consume a wide variety of foods if offered, green iguanas are naturally herbivorous and require a precise ratio of minerals (2 to 1 calcium to phosphorus) in their diet. The best food source for the Iguana is dark green leafy vegetables and of abundance in spring, summer, and fall is the Dandelion but it must be free of any chemical treatments. The diet needs to be a greater percentage of dark greens, moderate amount of squash, and less of fruits. Some of the most accessible staple vegetables, greens, and fruit are Collard Greens, Turnip Greens, Kale, Parsnip, Butternut squash, Tomato, Mango, Blueberries, Watermelon, and an occasional Apple or Banana slice and Watercress as a treat. Also of concern is the oxalate to calcium ratio, and avoiding those that provide too much oxalate which is harmful. Foods high in oxalate should be avoided or given very seldomly, examples are Broccoli, Carrots, Green beans, Snap peas, Okra, Sweet Potato, and Romaine lettuce. An Iguana should never be fed Iceberg lettuce, Spinach, Parsley, and Cilantro. [4] [3][5][6]

There is some debate as to whether captive green iguanas should be fed animal protein.[2] Zoologists, such as Adam Britton, believe that such a diet containing protein is unhealthy for the animal's digestive system resulting in severe long-term health damage and death.[7] On the other side of the argument is that Green iguanas at the Miami Seaquarium in Key Biscayne, Florida, have been observed eating dead fish and individuals kept in captivity have been known to eat mice without any ill effects.[2] De Vosjoli also writes that some animals have been known to survive and thrive on eating nothing but whole rodent block, or monkey chow, and one instance of Romaine lettuce with vitamin and calcium supplements.[2] However, just because an Iguana will eat certain foods it does not mean this is what's best for it. A protein or lettuce diet will greatly shorten the Iguana's life and for this reason should be avoided.[8]

Heat and light[edit]

A Green Iguana resting on a trunk

Being tropical animals, Green iguanas will thrive only in temperatures of 75 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit (24 to 32 degrees Celsius) They require a source of Ultraviolet (UVA and UVB) lighting;[2] without proper lighting their bodies cannot develop Vitamin D, and subsequently will develop metabolic bone disease which is fatal if not treated.[9]

Legalities[edit]

An old, male green iguana

In some locales, iguanas are considered exotic pets, and may be prohibited (New York City and Hawaii), or a special license or permit may be needed to own an iguana.[10][11] Hawaii has strict regulations regarding the import and possession of Green iguanas, violators can spend three years in jail and fined up to $200,000.[12]

Green iguanas are considered an invasive species in South Florida and along the gulf coast of Florida from Key West to Pinellas County.[13] Over the years escaped and intentionally released iguanas from the pet trade survived and then thrived in their new habitat.[14] They commonly hide in the attics of houses and on beaches and destroy gardens and landscaping.[15] As most reptiles carry salmonella, this is also a concern and a reason legislation has been sought to regulate the trade in iguanas.

Socialization and habitat[edit]

Green Iguana in captivity

Socialization of an iguana may take several years.[16] Iguanas have individual personalities that require some adaptation on the part of the owner. At about five to ten years, an iguana may exhibit bonding behavior similar to that of mammalian pets. Such an iguana may have a complex "need of attachment" to include separation anxiety.[17]

As pets[edit]

A juvenile and smaller immature iguana in captivity

Iguanas are not suitable lizards for beginners. A pet iguana habituates to humans to such a degree that humans no longer cause a "fight" or "flight" reaction.[2] Iguanas achieve this after they have acclimated to their new habitat and brief yet constant interaction with their owner.[2]

Healthy pet iguanas are very observant, confident, and curious. Iguanas can be "potty-trained" to go outside (when it is warm), go in a specific location (as on newspaper) or in a tub of warm water (and even on the toilet).[18]

Most veterinarians do not have the training to treat an iguana, making treatment difficult to procure, expensive, or both.[19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Green Iguana". Reptiles and Amphibians Fact Sheets (Smithsonian National Zoological Park). 2007. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g De Vosjoli, Phillipe; David Blair (1992). The Green Iguana Manual. Escondido, California: Advanced Vivarium Systems. ISBN 1-882770-18-8. 
  3. ^ a b Rosenfeld, Arthur (1989). Exotic Pets. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 105. ISBN 0-671-47654-8. 
  4. ^ http://www.anapsid.org/iguana/cal_ox.html/
  5. ^ Kaplan, Melissa (April 19, 2007). "'MK Diet' - The Short Version". Melissa Kaplan's Herp Care Collection. anapsid.org. Retrieved 2007-06-27. 
  6. ^ Baze, Derek (September 8, 2009). ""Food Information Chart" - The Green Iguana Society"". The Green Iguana Society. greenigsociety.org. Retrieved 2011-04-25. 
  7. ^ Britton, Adam (April 19, 2007). "Animal Protein and Claw Trimming". Melissa Kaplan's Herp Care Collection. anapsid.org. Retrieved 2007-06-27. 
  8. ^ http://www.anapsid.org/iguana/pickyeaters.html/
  9. ^ Kaplan, Melissa (April 19, 2007). "Identification and treatment of metabolic bone disease". Melissa Kaplan's Herp Care Collection. anapsid.org. Retrieved 2007-06-27. 
  10. ^ Blood, Michael R (1999-06-30). "Exotic Pets' Days Numbered". New York Daily News. 
  11. ^ ""Green Iguana Society Adoption Board" (discussion board)". Boardhost.com. Retrieved 2007-06-27. 
  12. ^ "Iguana & Illegal Lizard Turned In Under Amnesty". State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture. 2002-04-16. 
  13. ^ Krysko, Kenneth L; Enge, Kevin M; Donlan, Ellen M; Seitz, Jason C (2007). "Distribution, Natural History, and Impacts of the Introduced Green Iguana in Florida". Iguana: Conservation, Natural History, and Husbandry of Reptiles (International Reptile Conservation Foundation) 14 (3): 142–151. 
  14. ^ Lush, Tamara (July 26, 2005). "Florida's Iguana Infestation". St Petersburg Times. 
  15. ^ Youth, Howard (2005). "Florida's Creeping Crawlers". Zoogoer 20 (3). 
  16. ^ McLeod, Lianne. "What to Expect with a New Iguana". Handling Pet Iguanas. About.com. Retrieved 2007-06-27. 
  17. ^ Lizardlover, Henry (1992). "Into the Iguana; Potential Behavior & Attitudes of the Iguana". Iguana Owner's Manual. TodaysPlanet.com. Retrieved 2007-06-27. 
  18. ^ Eguro, Marie. "How to Toilet Train Iguanas". ThoughtShop Networks. Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-06-27. 
  19. ^ "Iguana Health". The Iguana Den. Retrieved 2007-06-27. 

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