Saturday, August 6, 2011

Fafnir the Iguana

This post was originally published April 16, 2010.

By request, I'm leading the introductions to the menagerie off with my iguana. My little beauty is likely a female, nearly 5-feet long from snout tip to tail tip, and about 9 years old (iguanas live about 10-12 years). Her name comes from Norse mythology: Fafnir was a dragon slain by the hero Siegfried (aka Sigurd).

Like many of my beasties, Fafnir was a rescue. She came from the Holifield Science Learning Center, a part of the Plano Independent School District, which somehow became known as a dumping ground for reptiles people no longer wanted. Those small, bright green iguanas pet stores sell grow rapidly. When they outgrow the aquariums folk invariably try to raise them in, they are often let loose or given away. The lucky ones in North Texas make it to Holifield.

Like me, Fafnir is a vegetarian. Unlike me, her meals are quite healthy and consist mainly of greens, chopped fresh veggies and chopped fruit, with the occasional handful of processed chicken feed. She's a fairly sedate and gentle lizard, and quite tolerant of other animals. Over the years, she's shared her cage with baby chicks, ducks and rabbits, as well as adult chickens, parakeets and ducks needing medication or cage rest due to illness or injury. On warm days, she enjoys going out on a cat leash and climbing trees. Well, she enjoys the trees; the leash not so much, sometimes throwing herself into alligator death rolls when it's first put on her until she remembers it's not going to hurt her.

The death rolls are about her only trick. Unless you consider basking for hours on end a trick. Or shedding her skin like a snake does 3 or 4 times a year. And except for having to chop fresh food for her daily and trimming her claws occasionally, she's a pretty easy keeper.

Please don't get a juvenile iguana unless you plan to build it a decent-sized habitat and keep its environment around 80+ degrees Fahrenheit. I used 2x4s, 1x2s, ½-inch hardware cloth and peg board (for added ventilation) to build Fafnir's cage, which is about 7-feet long, 4-feet wide and 6-1/2-feet tall. I gave it a raised plywood floor that I covered with sheet vinyl, two shelves for basking, and a hammock for sleeping. In the early days, it even had a fountain, floor plants and hanging baskets. When I started using the cage to house young, sick and injured animals, the pretty decorations had to go. I miss them, but I don't think Fafnir does.

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