Visiting The Green Iguana Conservation Project
In the small town of San Ignacio, Belize, there is a growing movement to protect and preserve a certain type of jungle dweller. I had heard rumors of a green iguana conservation project and decided that I needed to go check it out for myself.
I was only in San Ignacio for a week, and my primary goal was adventure hunting for caves and waterfalls. However, I did have some downtime and decided what better way to spend a sweltering afternoon than to go to an iguana conservation project deeper into the jungle where I would surely be miserable.
Welcome To The Jungle
The Excitement Builds
When we arrived at the site, I set my bag down and asked if it was OK for me to take my camera or if the iguanas would destroy it.
What he didn’t know is that I was secretly buying time trying to get up the courage to go into a dragon cage.
He assured me that all of the iguanas are raised from birth at the conservatory and are all very docile when it comes to human contact. Which was not the case for my many other iguana encounters in Mexico. They can be quite vicious.
So with a little trust, I threw caution to the wind and stepped through the screechy screen door. I was immediately met by what I could only assume to be the iguana guards.
All Eyes On Me
I stopped in my tracks and looked around. My guide had left me, and I was the now the center of attention. I slowly raised my camera as the iguana guards made lightning-quick head movements up and down as if waiting for a reason for something to pop off.
After a few shots, they realized I wasn’t a threat and went back to their regularly scheduled program of napping.
My next encounter was thankfully much more friendly.
How You Doin’ ?
I couldn’t believe my eyes. Was this iguana really smiling at me? I took a few more shots thinking surely it was just a funny angle, but no. She was defiantly smiling at me, or what I thought was me.
As I was trying to figure her out, I heard a frenzy of sharp claws scurrying across the wooden platform. To be honest, I thought it was a sneak attack. I thought that’s it, I’ve talked to some guys girl and this is the end.
As it turns out it wasn’t me that they were interested in at all.
The One True Love
It was the iguana guide, and he had come bearing treats. Almost every iguana in the entire conservatory came out for the feast. They were dropping from the trees and brushing past my legs all trying to get a taste of the sweet leafy greens.
Those Sweet Leafy Greens
I was looking a little lonely, so he handed me some lettuce and almost instantly I was again the center of attention. I guess all animals are the same. Whoever has the food get the love.
Show Me Some Love
The Violent Feast
It quickly reminded of the wild iguanas I had encountered before. I received a couple of claw marks and tail whips during the heat of the battle, but It was totally worth it.
After the last shred of lettuce was devoured, they all seemed to calm down and slowly meander their way back to their chillout spots. My guide then asked how much I knew about iguanas and if I had heard of what they were trying to accomplish at the Green Iguana Conservation Project.
Nigel – The Man Behind The Hand
Meet Nigel, my extremely knowledgeable iguana guide and the man behind the hand full of tasty treats. He has been taking care of the iguanas and spreading the word about their plight for some time now, and boy was I in for some learning.
Time To Get Serious
The green iguana, also known as the American iguana, are found throughout, you guessed it, the Americas. In Belize and many other Central and South American countries, iguanas and their eggs are a delicacy.
Locals eat them usually during special events or holidays. The eggs can even be found in restaurants most times during the year. The locals have an unusual name for them. Bamboo chickens.
One Big Bamboo Chicken
We are living in a time of great extinction, where it seems like every year several species are going extinct. The green iguana is no exception, and that is where The Green Iguana Conservation Project steps in.
My opinion: I have no qualms with consuming animals for sustenance, but when you start to see that they are becoming endangered and will soon be gone but keep on eating them at the same pace, that just blows my mind.
The workers at The Green Iguana Conservation Project work hard to protect this endangered species by providing them with a safe place to live and reproduce. There is only one male introduced into the group, and the rest are females. This keeps males from fighting over territory and mating rights.
They can even control the gender by varying the temperature of the egg while an embryo. Hot for a male and cold for a female. I thought that was wild.
The Green Iguana Hut
The workers also go out into the community to schools and town hall meetings trying to educate people on just how endangered these reptiles are. Nigel told me that most of the time the locals are shocked and stop eating them immediately, which gives me some hope.
OK, I think we get the point. Time for some iguana fun facts!
OK… I’m Listening
Green Iguana Fun Facts
Did you know?:
– Iguanas have a third eye on the top of their head. It only senses light and is used to avoid being snatched by predators from above.
– They can fall from a height of 40-50 feet without injury.
– To escape predators or move to a new place, iguanas can swim underwater for up to 30 minutes without coming up for air.
– They can grow to be as long as 5-7 feet in length.
– Male iguanas have two penises for double the fun.
– If their tail is not striped all the way to the tip, it means that it is not original but, regenerated.
I hope that you enjoyed the fun facts more than this fella. I’m going to guess and hope it was the lettuce.