In the James Bond film Licence to Kill, the evil drug lord Sanchez has one of the most exotic pets there is: a green iguana complete with its own diamond necklace sparkling around its scaly neck. “Get that thing away from me, you know I can’t stand it,” the heroine quips, feigning dislike of the lizard. Lizards are not pets for everyone. Iguanas are not either. They are thought of as pint-sized exotics — something like a larger chameleon — but that is not really true.
Most of the time in films and pet stores, the pet iguanas that you see are juveniles. They are very young and small, but they do not stay this size. They can live for up to 20 years and grow up to seven feet. Yes, seven feet. They are intelligent reptiles that need their own space, including for climbing rocks.
They also need warm conditions and you need to home them in a terrarium. A large fish tank will work when they are smaller, but as they grow larger, you will need to upgrade their home. These wonderful creatures are exotic lizards and not for novices.
Their dietary needs are not what you may think. They are herbivorous and do not eat insects — they only do so accidentally. They need a supply of fresh green leafy produce and fresh fruit on a weekly basis. They may also need calcium supplements.
Besides dietary needs, you may need to remember that fully grown adults will also weigh a fair bit. If they are not handled regularly, they can become aggressive. A pet iguana is a rewarding reptile and they become attached to their owners like puppies, but these are not pets for a novice or child.
In fact, they carry salmonella in their digestive tract system. People who are at a health risk — including children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with suppressed immune systems — should not handle an iguana.
The environment that it needs
MacGyver, Boris and Max are just some of the wonderful iguana names that have been given to these exotic pets. Should you wish to let your iguana out into the garden, it is a good idea to purchase a harness. These are available in different colors and designs.
You also need to keep the environment clean and change the sand and other components when needed. As you can imagine, a juvenile may only need a little food, but a more senior-sized iguana will need a fair bit to keep it going. Remember to focus on exercise and space to climb as well.
Iguanas live for many years, so before you decide to take a cute, iPhone-sized pet home with you, keep in mind that it will grow over a meter and eventually be bigger than a dog or cat. You have been warned, so now the rest is up to you. It is important to consider that while iguanas are low-maintenance pets in general, they do need more than a shoebox and a few flies to keep them going.