September 8, 2019
By Erica Rymer, Events and Marketing Specialist
Who doesn’t love holidays? Some come with days off of work or school, while others are so out of left field you can't help but smile. There is a holiday for everything, from independence to iguanas!
Each year on September 8 we celebrate Iguana Awareness Day. These magnificent reptiles are native to Central and South America but are also common in the Florida Keys, thanks to U.S. cargo vessels carrying them across the gulf. There are 35 species of iguana, many of whom have unique characteristics that make them stand out from most other reptiles. Here are a few unique facts about iguanas:
- Iguanas have thick tails which they can use to punch predators. They can also break off their tails if needed to make a quick getaway.
- Iguanas can survive a fall of up to 50 feet without death or injury.
- Iguanas are phenomenal swimmers and can hold their breath for up to 28 minutes. They often swim to escape from predators. Some species can also inflate their bodies in order to float in water, which is especially useful during flooding.
- Iguanas have a third “eye” that connects to the pineal gland of the brain. Though it does not create as clear an image as other eyes, this retina-like structure helps the iguana detect aerial threats.
- Iguanas are crazy lazy. Not only do these cold-blooded reptiles need to lay in the sun to warm themselves, but they can often be seen sunbathing and foraging for food in the same spots to avoid moving too far.
- Contrary to popular belief, some iguanas are vegan, and eat an all-plant based diet. Iguanas who do eat “meat” consume insects in addition to fruits and veggies.
- Young iguanas of some species will eat the poop of adult iguanas in order to gain the bacteria necessary to digest their food.
You may not know that the Akron Zoo also has an iguana resident. Her name is Taino, and she is one of our animal ambassadors. Taino came to us in 2011 from a family who could no longer keep her. When they heard that the Akron Zoo was looking for a new iguana, they decided that Taino would feel at home here. Taino has shorter spikes on her back than many other iguanas because she often took walks while wearing a harness. Her socialization with people early in her life helps make Taino very comfortable around people and a perfect animal ambassador.
Iguanas are easy to love but difficult to care for. They bond with their owners the same way that dogs and cats do, but they require a specialized diet, lots of social interaction, heat lamps and more to maintain their health and well-being. If you are considering adopting a pet iguana, be sure to do your research to know what you are committing to and to ensure the iguana has not been illegally trafficked.
If you are fond of iguanas but you don’t have the time to dedicate to caring for one as a pet, there are several other ways to express you affection! As one of our animal ambassadors, Taino gets to meet many of our guests during animal encounters in the community. Visit our ZooMobile page to learn more about bringing animal ambassadors to your community or school! Or, if you would prefer to support iguanas in their natural habitat, donate your aluminum cans to the Akron Zoo to help us raise money for Cans for Corridors. Money raised from recycling aluminum cans helps us purchase and plant trees in the Amazon Rainforest, which many iguanas call home.