Iguanas have become a really popular pet over the last decade, and their popularity doesn’t seem to be dying down at all. Most of the species of iguana come from tropical and subtropical forests, but there are also some that come from the desert and from the seashore (like the island iguanas in the Bahamas). You can find iguanas in places as far flung as Canada, the Caribbean, Madagascar, and the South Pacific island nation of Fiji.
Iguanas are one of the largest members of the lizard family and are the most popular as pets. As reptiles, they are an egg-laying, cold-blooded creature that relies on its environment to maintain its body temperature.
As you might suspect, different types of iguanas have a lot of differences in their behavior, size and appearance. Some common iguanas like the popular green iguana and the red iguana are found in large numbers in the wild, but others, like the Fiji banded iguana are endangered and at risk in the wild.
Iguana species are sometimes hard to recognize as parts of the same family, they look and act so differently. While some iguanas have dull greenish or brown skin, others have vividly bright colors. There’s so much variety in the lizards because each species has adapted to live in its own habitat.
Iguana as pets
In the US, iguanas are very popular pet. While iguanas may at first glance seem relatively easy to care for, its very important to educate yourself on the proper handling of the lizard. Each species has very specific care and feeding needs that are required to maintain them in good health.
Most iguanas are herbivores, and eat fruit, vegetables, and even flowers. Some iguanas also eat insects, like crickets or mealworms. It’s very important to know what your iguanas feeding needs are – feeding insects to a herbivorous iguana can cause deadly kidney problems.
Healthy, well-cared for iguanas will grow very rapidly – in just 24 months a hatchling iguana can quintuple it’s length. Fully grown iguanas can easily reach 5-6 feet in length, including the tail. That rapid growth is one reason why it’s so important to properly feed and house your iguana. Without proper nutrition and habitat with proper sun exposure, iguanas run the risk of metabolic bone diseases and fractures.
How Can You Tell Males from Females?
The male iguana will typically have large fat pockets on the back of its head. They usually are more “jowly” and have large femoral pores underneath the thigh. Males will also have larger and blockier heads than the females. Females don’t have the fat pockets behind their head that the males do, and also don’t have the heavy jowls. The femoral pores will be noticeably smaller on females.
A male iguana who is courting a female will erect the spines along his back, and will bob his head to attract her attention. At this time, male iguanas can become very aggressive. Females at mating time will burrow into the soil in a sunny area to make a nest for her eggs. She’ll lay the eggs into the hole and leave them covered for the sun to warm.
Iguanas in the wild face a variety of dangers to their existence. They are a prey animal, hunted by other animals – including humans. They have also suffered from a serious loss of habitat. Iguana fans can help by educating others on iguanas in the wild. Other ways of helping iguanas include captive breeding programs and restrictions on hunting wild iguanas.