Home | Field studies and notes | The Green Iguana (Iguana iguana) on the Venezuelan Llanos – Notes from the Field

The Green Iguana (Iguana iguana) on the Venezuelan Llanos – Notes from the Field

 

green iguana on Venezuelan LlanosI grew up “knowing” green iguanas to be largely arboreal lizards of thickly-forested habitats.  In time, I was able to confirm that impression by observing them high in the canopy of a Costa Rican rainforest, and in the tall trees of Tortuguero Island, Costa Rica…where, in accordance with what I had read, they dove into the river when disturbed.

So I was quite surprised, upon arriving in Venezuela’s flat, largely treeless llanos, to find these flooded grasslands well-stocked with the huge lizards.  I was there to study green anacondas (also a surprising find, given my past impressions, but we eventually tagged over 500) but found it impossible to limit my attention to them, so overwhelming was the diversity of wildlife.

The green iguanas grazed on the flat, treeless terrain like so many cows…in fact, they were often among cows, as much of our work was on a cattle ranch.  When threatened (i.e. by me trying to catch one), they took off at incredible speeds and dove into the water.

Anaconda surfacing on Venezuelan LlanosOne stout brute of 5’11” in length (please see photo showing side-view) absolutely refused to enter the water when he reached its edge.  He held his ground, thrashing his tail (please see photo showing cut left on my arm by a smaller animal’s tail) and lunging at me.  Once subdued, I was able to see that he had numerous old wounds that had likely been inflicted by piranhas, and was missing several toes.  Perhaps his stretch of the river had a particularly aggressive piranha population, and he preferred a battle on land to another swim!

Venezuelan LlanosI’ve included a photo of typical iguana habitat in Venezuela’s central llanos country, to perhaps show you why I was so surprised to find the lizards there (the creatures in the foreground are capybaras, world’s largest rodent).  Also included is a photo of another reason that an iguana might choose to run or fight rather than swim – a huge green anaconda basking at the surface.

Today we can see ample evidence of the green iguanas’ adaptability right here in the USA – feral animals live in areas ranging from beaches to suburban gardens throughout south Florida!

 

Detailed information on green iguana behavior and typical habitats is posted by the Green Iguana Society at:

http://www.greenigsociety.org/inthewild.htm

About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.

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