Thursday, July 7, 2011

On Melissa Kaplan's advice to challenge your iguana

Yes, this is another post about the green monster. While I'm sitting here to write this, he lies lazily on his bamboo shelf, where he has a good view over me. He really likes that. While I have covered all the other reflective surfaces, I left this one open, so he can also look outside the window. Iguanas get bored easily.

His aggression has become a little worse, I noticed mainly in the morning hours or just before he goes to sleep. During the day, he's rather relaxed as long as I don't come near. Looking him in the eye when I stand in front of the vivarium will be understood as me challenging him and he might jump to attack.

Which brings me to a website that is well known to most iguana owners. Unfortunately, many trust this advice too much and will probably learn their lesson the hard way: being attacked or even worse, severely bitten and end up in A&E (ER).

Melissa Kaplan advises to stand your ground with male aggressive iguanas or challenge them, by stomping your foot, climb onto something and shout at the animal, shaking your finger at them or even charge them first. That is not going to work! In fact this will make your iguana even more furious and he will attack. By that I mean, he will probably charge at you and sink his teeth into anything in his way, hand, leg, foot, shoe, towel, whatever available. And that's not enough, he will violently shake his head from left to right to definitely get a piece out of your body. Big aggressive iguanas in mating season are dangerous. They need to be treated with as much respect as possible and their owner has always to be on the lookout for signs of attack. Plus, they're incredibly bendy and fast.
I am one lucky girl to have a particularly aggressive exemplar. At six years old, he's big and strong and if I was to follow Melissa Kaplan's advice, I'd probably know each nurse and doctor by name in an A&E. She says she's carrying her iguana around for a bit. I have done it, just by putting him back into his vivarium, after taking him out in order to clean it, and he'd bend around so quickly, trying to bite into my face. Male iguanas don't care how big or loud you are, they will charge, no matter what. Brave little buggers.

I've been very lucky so far to not have suffered any major injuries handling aggressive iguanas. I had two in my career as an iguana carer (since '94). My current one, Zorro, presents aggressions on the high end of the scale and I would never let anyone near him. At this time of the year, which can last for a few months, I try to handle him as little as possible. Even if he's not in mating season, he's never really tame and I always have to watch what I'm doing, but he usually lets me touch or handle him as well as, sometimes, even give him a good head rub. But one wrong move or moment unattended and I end up with a very painful bite.

For those of you who are interested in keeping iguanas and are doing their 'homework' with an extensive research first, here are two websites that might be just what you're looking for:

Henry Lizardlover  He knows what he's doing, though I don't agree with those pictures he's taking and I also don't agree on the one video where he feeds his animals Swiss cheese. Iguanas should not be given any animal protein. But he has good advice on food, detailed information on behaviour and breeding issues, male and female.

Green Iguana Society  Another site that will answer questions about iguana behaviour, feeding, handling, etc.

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