Bobbleheads and… Blue Iguanas?

On January 7, we as a nation will celebrate the spring-connected figurines known as Bobbleheads! I don’t remember bobbleheads from my childhood, but now they seem to be everywhere. I see them most often for athletes and teams. I often wonder how significant those figurines will be in the following season. And yes, this topic is a little unusual for my blog. But I just happened to find an unusual bobblehead worth blogging about. 

A Short Bobble History

I was stunned when I learned that bobbleheads have been around for more than one hundred years! Bobbers or nodders, as they were originally known, were developed in Germany. They gained popularity in the US in the ‘50s and ‘60s, then again in the late ‘90s when those sports teams used them as promotional items.

You can probably guess by my dismissive tone that I’m not a big fan of bobbleheads. I’m not, except for one, very special, very important and very unique bobblehead. The only worthwhile bobblehead in my eyes is the Grand Cayman Blue Iguana Bobblehead. This amazing figurine was created by Joel Friesch and John Binns.

The Story of the Blue Iguana Bobber

Joel is known for his whimsical artwork that features the Blue Iguana. John Binns, of course, is known for his International Reptile Conservation Foundation. You might also have noticed that he formatted the iguana identification booklets I created to help people tell the difference between endemic iguanas and the invasive green iguanas. I provide the content and he makes them look fabulous!

The critically endangered Grand Cayman Blue Iguana, Cyclura lewisi,has inspired not only this great bobble head, but other marketing souvenirs as well. The bouncing of the head reminds me of the head bobbing by my hybrid blue iguana, Blue, which you see me holding in one of my marketing photos.

A Blue Iguana bobblehead on a rock shaped platform that reads: Grand Cayman Blue Iguana.

The blue iguana bobblehead was designed to help raise funds for the Blue Iguana Recovery Fund (BIRF). Note the details of the scales on the face and tail, the stripes on the torso and the lovely black hands and feet. The butterfly looks like it was carved from the unique Caymanian gemstone caymanite.

The BIRF provides support of the conservation effort of the blue iguana found on Grand Cayman. This is the only place, the only island, where this iguana species is found. So, blue iguanas are bred to provide juveniles for release in native environments, community education and habitat conservation programs.

Saving the Blue Iguanas

Conservation of the blue iguanas only started in 1990; most Caymanians didn’t know anything about their endemic lizard. Then came the invasion of the green iguanas (Iguana iguana), whose population exploded, destroying large parts of the island’s ecology.

Determined scientists and volunteers have brought the blue iguanas back from the brink of extinction. Education programs have introduced their fellow Caymanian to the locals. Visitors are greeted at the airport with a blue iguana statement “His ancestors have been here for 2 million years.” Perhaps these large lizards were mistaken for caimans by early European explorers, who gave the islands their name. Modern-day tourists are encouraged to meet the blues at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Park. They are a remarkable color of blue.

Although I have authored children’s books and workbooks on Iguanas in general, I haven’t written any books about the blue iguanas. I have created identification booklets to help people differentiate between the magnificent blue and the invasive green iguanas. I’m honored to do my part for their conservation.

For more on the blue iguanas at www.blueiguana.ky

Turtles and Tortoises Don’t Age?

Recently, one of my iguana companions died. Ezra, a green iguana (Iguana iguana), finally succumbed to old age. A green iguana, a very common pet lizard, Ezra had lived with me for 20 years after coming to my iguana rescue in New Jersey as a full-grown adult. He must have been at least 5 years old, probably closer to 7-8 years old. We had a special relationship, so I was heart-broken when his end finally came. Green iguanas usually live 15-20 years in the wild, but Ezra was most likely 27 when he passed. A very nice long life for an Iguana. After his passing, I came across an article in Life (23 June 2022) by Clare Wilson. It’s been observed that in captivity, some chelonian species have a lower rate of aging as they grow older. Keep in mind, turtles and tortoises are already known for their long lives. So why is this? That’s exactly what I wanted to know.

Negative Aging? Yes.

Knowing the life spans are important when considering these species for pets. The article described that some species living in captivity have a much slower rate of aging, approaching zero and, amazingly in some cases, a negative value. What? Negative value? Does that mean the reptiles got younger? No, we’re talking about the rate of aging.

Rate of aging refers to the likelihood of an individual’s death the older they get within a population. In most animals this rate increases rapidly as they get older; just think about mammals, such as us humans.

In contrast, some turtles and tortoises when kept in captivity have a decreased ageing rate. Captive care may be improving their longevity.

An interesting characteristic about turtles and tortoises is that they grow throughout their lives. Females produce more eggs the larger they grow. So, living longer enhances their reproductive opportunity.

Of course, none of these animals live forever. Is it the result of reliable food, good medical care and lack of predation and environmental dangers? That’s not fully understood. Or is it something in the animal’s physiology? This information could provide clues on how to increase human longevity. We always seem to bring it back to helping our species.

The Difference with Iguanas

Ezra the green iguana sunbathing in the yard.

Ezra Green Iguana’s life in captivity was not typical. Most green iguanas kept as pets have a much reduced life expectancy. Within the first year in captivity, 95% of green iguanas die; it’s 99% within the first two years. These are troubling and unacceptable statistics. Iguanas are beautiful lizards with a prehistoric look reminiscent of dinosaurs. Evolutionarily, however, they are fairly new. They are only native to the Americas. I ran an iguana rescue in NJ. I placed Ezra twice. Once to a truly horrifying situation that fortunately I was able to remove him from. The second time was to a wonderful family that wanted to use him for educational talks. However, he wasn’t happy with them. They built him a fabulous outdoor enclosure, but we discovered that he really wanted to live with me. When he was returned the second time, I promised him he could always stay with me and he did.

As a side note, when people came to adopt from me, I made sure the iguana chose the human and not the other way around. I also discovered that I had to leave the room, so the iguana would reveal its true feelings about the adopter and not be reassured by my presence. And people don’t think reptiles can differentiate between humans. But that’s a tale for another blog.

Some reptiles are easier to keep as pets. Green iguanas are not good choices. They require extensive lighting, heating, and enclosures as well as daily fresh food. As prey animals, they defend themselves first and worry about being pleasant later. As I often say, “everything eats as iguana.” It takes about a year of daily interaction to “socialize” an iguana. They will never be tame, but may become an accommodating wild animal. Their human companions must earn their trust.

If you’d like to have a lizard family member, I recommend bearded dragons (Pogona sp.) or geckos (especially leopard geckos (Eublepharis macularius). Look for captive bred individuals – many of them have impressive color morphs.

This is one of my color morphs green iguanas: He’s a red morph green iguana.

A bright orange iguana.

Always check your local rescues for reptiles needing good homes. That way, you’ll get a new family member with background information.

My final thought is that I’m pleased that some turtles and tortoises do well in captivity. We need to ensure that we can say that about all reptiles we take into captivity. Want to learn mre about turtle, tortoise, and iguana conservation? Check out my educational workbooks. Made for children in grades K-8 but fun and interesting enough for the adults too. 

 

Journal references: Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.abl7811 and DOI: 10.1126/science.abm0151

Read more: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2325563-some-turtles-that-live-longer-have-a-lower-chance-of-dying-each-year/#ixzz7XBcc1Zz1

Life with My Rascally Reptiles

Home sweet home. What do you think of when you think of home? Family? Safety? Danger? Well, maybe not danger, but there are so many things to trip over while going about one’s daily routine. Parents often complain about their children’s toys lying about on the floor, rug edges, strewn clothes, etc. My house is also full of trip hazards. However, it’s not what I’ll trip over but who. Yes, I regularly trip over my family members. Of course, they are rather short and walk very quietly. Sandburg’s cat feet have nothing on a tortoise or turtle feet. At least, my iguanas have the decency to click their nails on my tile floor as they approach. Join me for a day in the life with my rascally reptiles.

Rascals from the Start!

My day starts with tortoises circling me as I prepare everyone’s breakfasts. I’m trying to concentrate on all their plates spread out on the counter and I have to deal with multiple tortoises roaming around my feet. One moment, I’m alone, tearing collard green leaves, the next I’m being circled by several hard-shelled creatures. I move them away, but they just come back. Not only do I trip over them, but they walk over my feet, pinning them to the floor.

Three of Elaine's tortoises crowding together on her kitchen floor.

 

Another place that the tortoises like to lie in wait to trip me is on the rug in the front room. Their dark shells blend in nicely with my rug. They are particularly effective speed bumps when the room is dark. I’ve done a few face plants on this, fortunately, very plush rug, so no significant injuries. But it is always a surprise!

A tortoise blends in with the pattern on a muted tone rug.

Obsolete Obstacles

If I place something on the floor, the tortoises have to explore, pushing it or climbing over it.

You wouldn’t think an animal with this body shape would have such a need to climb. I guess tortoises and people are a lot alike when it comes to climbing. After all, why do we climb Mount Everest? Because it’s there.

A tortoise climbing over a large black case that was set on the floor.

But climbing isn’t limited to my tortoises. The master climber in the household is the box turtle. He particularly likes screens. And tight spaces. I put the box in the space to keep him from crawling to the back. Unfortunately, the box was an obstacle he could overcome…

Trevor the tortoise bracing himself between a narrow passage to move over a box blocking his path.

I always double-check that there isn’t a turtle in the door before I lock it up.

As I mentioned above, the tortoises are tripping hazards. But I can’t get away from their attacks even while sitting. If they can’t go under or over something, they push it, like a bulldozer. They have enough oomph to move the chair with me on it. An empty chair can end up in a different room.

A tortoise wedged himself under an office chair to push it out of the way.

Lurking Lizards

I have other reptiles in my family that I have to watch for. I always double-check my sofa before sitting, because there just might be a large lizard lurking beneath the pillows.

An iguana burrowed under couch pillows.

There’s a mouth at the other end of that tail.

I’m not the only household member who is targeted by the tortoises. At least they don’t flip me on my back and spin me like a top…

A turtle flipped over on its back by a nearby tortoise.
So, the next time you step on your child’s toys with your bare feet, remember it could be worse. You could be the unwitting or intentional victim of scheming tortoises, turtles, and iguanas. Those rascally reptiles! If you’d like to learn more about my reptile family please visit my YouTube channel and while you’re there, remember to subscribe!

Having Fun with Shadows!

Do you enjoy shadows as much as I do? As a child, I fondly remember making shadow puppets with my family, creating animals out of our hands. My shadows were always very simple and I admired people who could make more complex animal shadows. Little did I know that shadow puppetry is an ancient form of storytelling. That makes sense, though; as long as you have a surface for a light to be pointed at, you can make shadows. Hopefully, this blog will shed some light on the shadowy business of shadows. 

A Shadow by any Other Name

One of my favorite shadows is in that popular poem that I recited repeatedly as a child and, I confess, I still do today. You can’t go wrong with the poems by Robert Louis Stevenson.

My Shadow

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,

And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.

He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;

And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.

 

The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—

Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;

For he sometimes shoots up taller like an India-rubber ball,

And he sometimes gets so little that there’s none of him at all.

 

He hasn’t got a notion of how children ought to play,

And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.

He stays so close beside me, he’s a coward you can see;

I’d think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!

 

One morning, very early, before the sun was up,

I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;

But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,

Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.

Me and My Shadows

I, too, delighted in the diversity of my shadow’s forms, and still do today. I even use shadows to examine my horse’s stride, since I can’t always determine what its feet are doing from my perch on its back. It’s so much easier when I can look at the horse’s shadow for confirmation that we’re moving correctly.

From my home in Tucson, I can see Pusch Ridge in the Santa Catalina Mountains, east of the city. When the sunsets, not only do the mountains change colors, orange to maroon, but shadows darken the indentations. These shadows give the ridge an air of harshness and mystery.

One mountain shadow near Phoenix is quite famous. From the third week of March through the third week of September, a shadow forms that looks like a mountain lion chasing a prey animal. This shadow forms in the Superstition Mountains, east of Mesa. The sun must be at the correct latitude on the western horizon to create this shadow. It’s amazing and spectacular to use one’s imagination on such a large scale. I wonder if the Native Americans enjoyed this phenomenon as much as modern people do.

A shadow that resembles a cougar lies between two mountain peaks.

Photo credit: Paul Fiarkoski for AZ Wonders

Shadows of the Wild

Shadows of trees can create a mysterious setting for a story. Moonlight on the desert’s sparsely leaved trees provides a satisfying effect.

An eerie shadow of a bare branches on asphalt.

My iguanas are also involved in my shadow observations. Calliope Green Iguana’s shedding skin created an interesting pattern along her back.

AN iguana with striped shadows on her side created by her shedding skin.

However, my rock iguana, Blue, did the best job of creating impressive shadows. The shadows of his claws are good enough for a horror movie!

The claw of an iguana, the shadow exaggerates the hook and sharpness of the nails.

And even though he is five feet long, his body’s shadow produced a huge reptilian creature! I especially like how his spines came out, too.

An iguana with a shadow that is twice its size with exaggerated spines.

What are your favorite shadows? For me, Shadows can be useful tools, something to enjoy, or writing inspiration. I hope you’ll find something new in a shadow the next time you encounter one. 

Celebrating HerStory Month!

March is an important month for women! Not only was March 8th International Women’s Day. But it’s also HerStory Month, otherwise known as Women’s History Month. It is important to celebrate the vital role of women in American history for the entire month of March, not just one day. Learning about HerStory Month, got me thinking about my story as a woman in both science and the arts. I’ve written previously about some of the challenges I faced in my career, but this time I’d like to share some favorite and little-known highlights. Come celebrate HerStory month with me!

The Beginning of my HerStory

One of my favorite (non-science) accomplishments was helping to found the Hunterdon Radio Theatre. They produce New Time radio scripts in the style of Old-Time radio. My storytelling began with creating audio scripts, which are very different from writing stage theater scripts or books. All the information needed for the story is presented orally. Writing for the ear is much more difficult than for the eyes. The ear is unforgiving of “dead air” or incorrect sounds. And it can ruin the whole story for some! I remember listening to a police procedural where an officer enters his boss’ office. I heard the appropriate sound of the door opening and the background sounds becoming louder. As the dialog began, the background noise became quiet, but the door never closed. Instead of listening to the dialog, I was concentrating on the lack of the door closing sound! 

Many of my theater scripts were performed live. One, the Shrine of Seven Iguanas, was actually recorded. I bet you can guess how many iguanas I had in my home at that time (the script title is a clue). Noel, my first iguana, was used as the model for the cover.

The CD cover of my recorded play. An iguana peaks from the corner over a bright green background.

An Inspiring Artist

When I moved to Arizona, I transitioned to writing my science-based picture books. One of my books is set on the Bahamian island of Eleuthera. A local artist, Monique Carroll, had created magnificent illustrations for the island adventure. She invited me to join her at a local art festival where we could market the book. The festival organizers had set up a blank canvas that the artists were encouraged to paint on. But after an hour, none of these wonderfully talented artists had applied any paint. So, I, with my very limited painting talent decided to get things going. I painted a couple of green swipes to create a sprouting plant since my adventure tale featured seeds. Those few swipes were all the impetus that was needed. No longer an intimidating blank canvas, the artists’ creativity was released and a masterpeice was created! And even though, many more layers of paint were added, my little starting sprout was still visible.

Two images. The first is Elaine painting on a blank canvas. The second is the finished artwork displaying a shell and various island features.

Riding High

In the past few years, I’ve taken up horseback riding, in kind of a big way. I was never particularly interested in horses as a child or even as an adult until I retired. However, I had liked the idea of riding animals, all along. Before there was this:

Elaine riding bareback on a tan horse.

There was this:

Elaine riding a water buffalo.

I’ve also ridden camels and elephants!

Conserving Our Future

Growing up, I wanted to be a naturalist, sharing my love of nature with others as well as conserving it. However, life took me into laboratories, where I worked as a research biologist. I did wander out to help with conservation outdoors. I volunteered to travel to the Caribbean to work on rock iguana conservation. No lying on the beach for me. No, I was chasing, large lizards over limestone karst, through thorny bushes.

Elaine gripping a wild igauna as another person wraps it in canvas cloth.

Here I am with my friend, Jill Jollay, “processing” a rock iguana. We would take measurements, including weight, which was done by putting the iguana into a bag of known weight. This fieldwork introduced me to the people associated with the National Trust of The Bahamas, and subsequently, the Cayman Islands. Together we realized the potential of the books set in the islands to educate children and adults about important conservation topics. And a personal highlight, interacting with these incredible creatures resulted in me getting a rock iguana of my own to join my family.

Elaine holding a large blue-green iguana.

This is Blue, a hybrid Grand Cayman Blue iguana. He is the star of my in-person talks to groups.

To the Rescue!

My love of iguanas led to my starting an iguana rescue in New Jersey. I was on “speed-dial” for many agencies because I always answered the phone and I always made room for any iguana whose life was in danger. I had up to 26 iguanas in my house at any given time.

Elaine holding a large grayish iguana with orange spines down it's back.

This is Eddie, who spent a year with me while his mom was in Tanzania. When she moved to Uganda, Eddie was allowed to join her. Eddie remembered me when I visited him in Kampala.

Elaine smiles as a large iguana is perched on her shoulder.

This is Calliope, named for the muse of long poetry. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little bit of my HerStory and are encouraged to make your own history. To learn more about me and my current goings-on please sign up for my newsletter

A Bite of a Blog: Feeding my Scaly Family

There’s a lot of talk about eating. People are encouraged to eat mindfully. Set the table and concentrate on your meal. But, I prefer to eat in front of my laptop. I like to spend most of my free time putting words onto pages. I enjoy writing books and blogs. So, when I get hungry, I grab something, set it beside me, and consume as I create. But thinking about eating habits leads me to my reptilian family members. As you can imagine, their eating habits are quite different. I hope you enjoy this little bite about the daily eating habits of my scaly family members!

What They Eat

I prepare fresh food for my scaly kids every day, serving them different proportions, depending on their appetites and food preferences. I feed my family first thing in the morning. Then, they can graze all day. Their meal is a “salad” of high calcium greens like collard greens, turnip tops, and various vegetables. I whittle the greens into thin strips with a potato peeler to make it easier for them to eat. My reptiles don’t have grinding teeth, like our molars. On occasion, I add a little fruit as a treat.

It’s Not Just What

The how and where they eat is just as important as what they eat. In captivity, most animals don’t move around as much as they would in the wild. There is no need for them to search for sustenance. Because of this, caretakers are encouraged to make their reptiles move a bit to reach their food. Calliope Green Iguana likes to climb up to her basking perch to eat. Her heat and sun lamps keep her nice and warm while she dines.

Calliope the iguana eating her salad. Her front feet are on the edge of her dish.

In contrast, Chile Green Iguana prefers to reach down. I love the way he stretches his body while enjoying his meal. Once he finishes, he’ll pull himself back up to his basking shelf. 

Chile the iguana eat his salad. He is hanging upside down in his cage while eating.

For the tortoises that roam free around my house, I put out plates of food in various spots. Consequently, they can walk about, choosing where they’d like to eat. They also enjoy basking before and after meals.

This is a close-up of a tortoise enjoying a strawberry.

Trevor the tortoise enjoying a strawberry.

One of the box turtles also enjoys strawberries. The other one doesn’t.

If you want to see my family members eating, check out their videos on my YouTube channel: Elaine Powers or Curtis Curly-tail Speaks. You’ll find all sorts of interesting videos. And while you are there, become a subscriber!

The Importance of Eating

I need to watch my family members eat. I get information about the health of each animal. When a reptile is sick, the first symptom is often a lack of appetite. If they feed eagerly, I know all is well. If they don’t, I start checking for problems. Is the heat lamp burned out? Are they sick or injured? If something is wrong, it’s off to the local reptile vet we go. I’m very fortunate to have a superb reptile vet. One bit of advice I give to new reptile caretakers is to locate a reptile veterinarian before you bring your new family member home.

If you’d like to read a fun book about the eating habits of other animals, I recommend How to Eat Breakfast by Gene Twaronite, another Lyric Power Publishing LLC author.

Writing this made me hungry. I’m off in search of a snack. I hope you enjoy your food as much as my scaly kids do! You might not want to hang upside down to eat, though.

The Life & Legacy of Krinkle

When I lived in New Jersey, I ran an iguana rescue and adoption program. If an iguana’s life was in danger, I would always have room for it. All of the iguanas I took in were green iguanas, Iguana iguana, but I really wanted one another type of iguana, the spiny-tail iguana, Ctenosaura similis. C. similis, also called black iguanas. Enter Krinkle. Krinkle had an important life, but an even more important legacy. 

The Story of Krinkle

Because I would always take in iguanas, I was on the call list for many police departments and animal control centers. One day I got a call from an animal control center saying they had a black iguana. I told them I was on my way. I picked up a five-year-old spiny-tail iguana that I named Krinkle. A cute name for a sad condition.

You see, Krinkle had a deformed body. For the first five years of his life, he’d been kept in a five-gallon aquarium, which he quickly outgrew. His body sacrificed his hips and tail in the tight space. His head and shoulders were full-sized, but his hips were small and his tail was accordioned. Worst of all, Krinkle couldn’t walk. He eventually got angry enough that he bit his owners, who took him to Animal Control. Which turned out for the best, I was delighted to welcome this black iguana into my family. 

With some physical therapy, nutritious food, and affection, Krinkle thrived. His tail eventually relaxed a bit. He learned to walk, although he was never able to run. But most importantly he became an important educator. Content in his new life, he never showed aggression and was always calm, even as he was passed around, child to child, at my reptile talks. He never opened his mouth in anger or for any reason. I wanted him to open up so the kids and adults could see his impressive teeth, but he wouldn’t. I believe he truly enjoyed educating people about lizards and the cruelty perpetrated upon reptiles.

He even liked hanging out with other family members. This is Krinkle with Rose Red-foot Tortoise and Calliope Green Iguana.

Krinkle the Igauna sunning himself with a tortoise and another iguana.

The Legacy of Krinkle

Sadly, a few years ago Krinkle passed away. But his educational influence continues to this day. In a previous blog, I described how Chelsea Richardson at Respectfully Dead prepares and cleans animal skeletons. She agreed to take on Krinkle and did a phenomenal job. I knew Krinkle’s skeleton would be fascinating. After cleaning, the bones were reassembled. Below is the result of her team’s efforts. Truly magnificent – Krinkle would be happy.

Krinkle's skeleton. His spine is curved and his tail is fused in a zig zag shape.

His tail end is mostly fused, instead of articulated vertebrae.

Even in death, Krinkle’s story will continue to be told. He will educate about proper care and animal abuse of reptiles. I do appreciate the first owners being responsible enough to turn Krinkle into their local Animal Control so that he could be rehomed. He was truly an ambassador for reptiles and lizards, in particular. RIP, Krinkle and Long live Krinkle the lizard!

Meet Calliope, the Muse of Long Poetry

Most of the iguanas in my life have been green iguanas, Iguana iguana. However, not all green iguanas are green. Through the years I’ve cared for green iguanas who were various shades of green, orange, blue, and even one that was black and white. Like any animal, they all had different personalities. Some liked to be cuddled, while others were content to sit on my lap or shoulders as long as I didn’t touch them. Then there were those I called real people-lizards. Those were the ones who enjoyed our visits to schools and senior centers. Still, others were homebodies and preferred to stay out of the spotlight. No matter their coloring or temperament, I’ve found that iguanas are my writing muse. 

Enter Calliope

Years ago, I retired from my job as a laboratory research biologist to become a writer. I quickly found inspiration in writing with my iguanas around me. To soak in their positive creativity, I moved my writing desk into their midst. One Christmas, a friend gave me a baby female iguana from her favorite breeder, who was well known for producing easily socialized iguanas. When a new iguana comes into my life, I like to choose a meaningful name – we humans like to name things. I pondered the ease with which this little green lizard was stimulating my muse, and the moniker Calliope came to mind. Calliope was one of the Greek Muses, the nine sister goddesses who presided over poetry, song, the arts, and sciences. Calliope was the muse of epic poetry. Epic poems are narrative, long poems. Some articles refer to Calliope as the muse of long poetry.

Since many of my books happen to be long poems about scientific facts, Calliope was just the muse I needed. Non-fiction can be written as rhyming poems. I believe it enhances learning and retention of information. Consequently, I think all picture books should rhyme.

Rhyming Science

During my adventures in writing poetic science, I’ve received comments stating that poetry and science should never be mixed. Then, at a book festival in Chicago, several poets happened to be at my booth as they discussed how non-fiction could be written in rhyme. One of them pointed at my books, turned to the others, and said “See? You can put non-fiction into rhyme.” 

Here’s a real-world example. As part of my efforts as a citizen scientist, I create iguana identification booklets. These pocket-size booklets are used in areas in which iguanas, both native and invasive, are common. They teach people how to tell between native and invasive iguana species, but that’s not all. They state where to call for invasive removal and provide tips for protecting their native animals, amongst other things.

Since rhyming is my thing, the text in these booklets rhymes. One of the target audiences for these booklets is dock workers. They are the front line of biosecurity. Unfortunately, green iguanas often stow away in shipping containers and it’s up to the workers to prevent them from getting ashore and out of the port. At first, it was feared that workers wouldn’t like the “childish” rhyming, but authorities soon realized the opposite; rhymes assisted in detailed memorization. It wasn’t long before they insisted upon rhymes.

Calliope Green Iguana has contributed to many books, and I enjoy creating leaves of books while Calliope, a folivore, enjoys the leaves in her food. I appreciate her support as I continue writing long, epic poems which become entertaining, educational picture books.

Elaine, wearing a green shirt and smiling at the camera. Calliope is perched on her right shoulder and appears to also be smiling into the camera.
Calliope on my shoulder.

 

Iguanas and Tortoises are… Invasive Species?

 

Invasive species are a common topic in environmental discussions these days, and rightfully so. Often, these concepts seem to deal with invasive plants or animals that affect people and places far away. But if you’ve ever watched my Reptile-Side chats, or witnessed one of my school or community visits, you know my non-human housemates are reptiles, mostly iguanas and tortoises. What you may not realize is that some of them are invasive species.

It’s Raining Green Iguanas!

Take green iguanas, for instance. I have both green and rock iguanas, species involved in my conservation effort in the Caribbean area. However, green iguanas are well-known invasives. They can be entertaining, like when comatose green iguanas fall from the trees during cold snaps in Florida. “It’s raining reptiles!” people love to say. Knowing how fond I am of iguanas, folks assume I want to help these unfortunate frozen lizards. They’re surprised when I suggest that the local wildlife personnel and the public finish the job that nature began.

I am a fan of iguanas, but prefer them to be safe and protected in their natural environment. Green iguanas, who are unable to handle cold weather in south Florida, are native to much warmer Central America. These wonderful animals have been introduced around the world through the pet trade, as stowaways on ship containers, and from human negligence. As a result, they’ve become a very dangerous invasive species. They’re not aggressive or a danger to humans; rather, they’re dangerous because they destroy non-native environments.

Part of my volunteer work as a citizen scientist involves helping to identify invasive green iguanas throughout the world. Posters have been created and flyers produced to spread the word, but more needs to be done. My author skills came to the rescue, and I created identification booklets for the public. These little booklets enable the public to tell the difference between native and invasive iguanas. In addition, they educate folks on the importance of native lizards.

In Tucson, Arizona, where I live, green iguanas are not a problem. Iguanas need more humidity and better vegetation to survive in this harsh environment. It’s not a problem for their relatives, the chuckwalla, who do well here. An invasive species that also does well here and lives in my yard—the sulcata tortoise. Surely, you must be thinking ‘how dangerous can a tortoise be?’

Invasive Tortoises in the Desert

The reality is that sulcata tortoises can have devastating effects on native Sonoran desert tortoises. Sulcata tortoises are natives of southern Saharan Africa, not southern Arizona. Sulcatas are much larger than the desert tortoise, 100-200lbs versus 15lbs. Both species eat the same plants, which means competition for limited food sources and water supplies. They also compete for a territory that, thanks to humans, steadily decreases.

Why are sulcatas roaming the Sonoran desert in the first place? They’ve been dumped by humans. You see, sulcatas are a favorite pet choice. As hatchlings, they’re a nice size and are both friendly and calm. In contrast, desert tortoises are much smaller at hatching. They’re shy around humans (who are viewed as possible predators) and tend to explore.

People may enjoy having a pet tortoise when they’re small. However, as they grow (and grow and grow) their caretakers learn how just destructive sulcatas can be. Sulcatas can easily dig through doors and drywall. Furniture is moved and broken while gardens and plantings are destroyed. One of my sulcata tortoises digs outside quite a bit, and I wondered how close she’d gotten to my house foundation. Turns out she was undermining it.

Due to the harshness of desert life, both sulcata and desert tortoises dig tunnels to escape the intense heat. Obviously from their size, sulcatas dig much bigger holes than the smaller desert tortoises. Sulcata dens can easily be 30 feet long and 20 feet deep, while desert dens are far smaller. Either type of den can provide a habitat for other animals. When my female sulcata dug a burrow in my yard, the desert tortoise helped herself and moved right in. Consequently, the sulcata had to continue digging to make the burrow big enough for both of them. They are not happy den-mates.

The entrance to a large den is visible beneath the broken edge of a house foundation.
A large sulcata den.
The entrance to a small desert tortoise den is visible beneath a succulent plant.
A small Sonoran tortoise den.

In other households, many unwitting owners eventually decide their tortoise is too destructive and unmanageable. Instead of finding a new home or at least contacting a rescue group, they’re often just dumped in the desert. Once there, not only do they have to compete with desert tortoises, they can also introduce diseases.

At least dumped sulcatas can survive here in the Sonoran desert. When I lived in New Jersey, I read a report stating that a Sulcata tortoise was found in a Pennsylvania forest. Fortunately, the unlucky tortoise was found before winter set in. A long, slow death in cold weather is a fate no reptile deserves.

How Can You Help?

An inconvenient and abandoned pet can easily become invasive and have a devastating effect on native animals. When we bring animals into our homes, it’s our responsibility to ensure they have a good place to live for the rest of their lives—which is up to 150 years for a tortoise. Once they live with humans they can never be released or returned into the wild. And they should never, ever be left in someone else’s habitat. Before you decide to bring home a pet, like a tortoise or an iguana, it’s a good idea to learn everything you can about them and make sure they’re the right pet for you.

Prize-Winning Size Found in My Kitchen!

Have you eaten your leafy green vegetables today? You should! Vegetables are important for a healthy lifestyle.

My family members would agree – they are herbivores, and they enjoy their leafy greens. People may eat their greens cooked or raw.  My reptiles prefer their greens raw. These collard leaves are important sources of calcium, iron, vitamins A, C, K and folate, to build strong reptile bodies.

Every day I prepare a salad for each family member of leafy greens topped with various vegetables. The preferred greens are collard greens, turnip tops, dandelion greens and mustard greens. Every now and then, I include others, like spinach and kale. Never lettuce or cabbage.

Twice a week, I pick up a case of collard greens, the basis for my salads. They’re available year-round, but the sizes of the leaves and bunches changes with availability. Usually, the leaves around 10 inches long with six leaves to a bunch.

Recently, the farmers have outdone themselves, producing amazingly large leaves.

Pictured above is the meal-sized leaf!

6 tortoises of three species gathered around a heat lamp
Breakfast was good!

I hope you enjoy your leafy greens as much as my family does.

May all your leaves be big ones!

Book Note: Do you know the many differences between tortoises and turtles? They all enjoy collard greens, but there are ten differences noted in the illustrated, rhyming, fun science book, Don’t Call Me Turtle! This favorite among preschoolers (for its rhymes) is popular with Mom and Dad, too! Pick up a copy for your turtle- or tortoise-lover today!

a green book cover with an illustration of a tortoise standing on hind legs
There are many differences between tortoises and turtles, and the wise tortoise who narrates this book tells us about ten of those differences–in rhyme. She also says, “Don’t Call Me Turtle!” (Even if my name should be Myrtle.)
Voted 5-Stars by the Preschool Crowd

#elaineapowers  #lyricpowers  #iguanas  #tortoises  #collardgreens

That Hurt! Where is a Bottle of Alcohol When You Need It?

A couple of years ago I rescued a Rhinoceros Iguana, Rango, who had bitten her owner and a guest too many times. I brought her into my home and, after quarantine, allowed her to free roam — until she started biting my feet. I finally figured out it was the color socks or pants that was attracting her. I hypothesized that I was wearing clothes that reminded her of food — you know, fruit and vegetable colors. So, I put her into a large open enclosure in the middle of her territory. The food preference attacks continued but she usually couldn’t get hold of me.

I still needed to get into her enclosure for feeding and cleaning. Some days she would ignore me, other days she would leap at me, mouth agape. Most times, I was able to avoid her teeth, but one day, my reflexes were a bit too slow, and I got bitten!

Iguanas have razor sharp teeth designed to rip and bite through fibrous plant material. Powered by strong muscles, iguanas can deliver a significant bite. Consequently, my skin was easily pierced.

photo of iguana bite on finger

I resisted the urge to pull my finger from her teeth, since she kept hold of me. Doing that would have shredded my finger’s tissue even more. Rango bit down a few more times, perhaps trying to show me who was in charge.

I had only opened one end of the enclosure door when Rango grabbed me. I stood there trying to decide the best way to get her to release my finger. I unhooked the latch on the other side of the door, thinking she might let go for the opportunity to roam about the room, but she clamped down harder. I re-latched that side of door.

I thought about trying to lift her up, since repositioning the body position might encourage release, but then I’d have to let go of the other side of the door that I was holding open because both of us were in the opening.

I knew alcohol would get her to let go, but the nearest bottle was across two rooms in the kitchen.

I’ve been told that any alcohol would work: rubbing alcohol or hard liquor. I had a green iguana who used to taste my food and drinks and he never liked any of my alcoholic drinks. The fumes near the iguana’s face or a bit in its mouth should be sufficient to release the captured body part. But don’t pour it down the iguana’s throat — you don’t want to pour the alcohol into its lungs.

Patience paid off and Rango eventually released my finger. I quickly latched the enclosure door. I really couldn’t blame Rango, since she is a wild animal and did what her instincts told her.  I did wonder, but only for a moment, if she’d like meat in her diet. She wouldn’t — she’s an herbivore and, very much, a folivore (leaf eater).

I suspect Rango will attempt to bite me again in the future.  I think I’ll prepare for the eventuality and strategically place a bottle of some kind of alcohol on her enclosure. Within easy reach, of course, for the next time Rango latches on.

Book Note: I generally write fun science books for children, but I do also write about issues important to me, such as my book about the disappearing Rock Iguanas of Cayman Brac, Silent Rocks, that can be used to teach principles of Conservation.

white book cover with rock iguana photo on cover
The endemic Sister Isle Rock Iguana of Cayman Brac is critically endangered. This poignant book shows why* and how we humans can help. Includes many photographs of these magnificent large lizards.
*Silent Rocks can be used to teach how humans endanger many species

 

image of workbook cover, all about iguanasAnd to supplement your child’s education during the summer, check out the workbook full of fun and interesting activity sheets called My Unit Study on Iguanasat Lyric Power Publishing, LLC.  The pages included in the workbook are listed on the cover.

#elaineapowers    #lyricpower   #iguanabite

May 8th is the First International Blue Iguana Day!

May 8, 2021 is the first International Blue Iguana Day. Blue iguanas, Cyclura lewisi, are the endemic iguanas on the island of Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands.

I had the honor of volunteering with this program, collecting native plants and preparing the salad for the iguanas.

This is a story of success for a critically endangered species, which was on the brink of extinction. In 2002, only about two dozen blue iguanas remained in the wild. Currently, the population is 750. Because of the increase in numbers, the blue iguana has been down-listed to endangered. Fred Burton and the Blue Iguana Recovery Program (BIRP), now Blue Iguana Conservation, are responsible for this effort. The effort is located in a conservation facility in the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. About 100 baby iguanas a year are head-started before being released there.

photo of head of blue iguana hybridThere are several reasons blue iguanas, who exist in one place in the world, almost became extinct. The reproductive rate of these iguanas is very low, and native snakes consume a lot of babies—but those issues are part of the natural cycle.  Deaths due to domestic pets, however, are not and owners must control their dogs and cats, because iguanas don’t know that our pets are a threat to them. As the human population on Grand Cayman grew, habitat destruction and being killed on the roads increased as well. Iguanas enjoy basking on the warm road surface – and cars aren’t recognized as a danger, either.

For more information, visit www.blueiguana.ky

My connection with the blue iguanas, in addition to donating time and money, is my reptile companion, Blue (pictured above).  Blue is a hybrid blue iguana, Cyclura nubila lewisi, from a cross of the Blue Iguana and a Cuban Rock Iguana.  Since he is a hybrid, he can never be released into the wild.  However, though he is missing the classrooms, he is still enjoying his role as an ambassador for iguana conservation.

Book Note: Perhaps someday I will write a book about Blue Iguanas, but for now, I’d love to show you my book about the endangered Rock Iguana called Silent Rocks. So many species are now endangered, Rock Iguanas being among them. The book can be used to teach how animals in general become endangered and the difference conservation makes.

white book cover with rock iguana photo on cover
The endemic Sister Isle Rock Iguana of Cayman Brac is critically endangered. This poignant book shows why* and how we humans can help. Includes many photographs of these magnificent large lizards.
*Silent Rocks can be used to teach how humans endanger many species

#blueiguana  #elaineapowers  #lyricpower  #iguanaconservation
#internationalblueiguanaday

 

That Shell Might Not Look Comfy to You and Me, But to Ezra?

I have a suspended heat lamp that the tortoises like to use.  They gather together underneath to share in the warmth. The tortoises chose their spot, then sit down and bask for a while.

photo of large green iguana on top of tortoiseRecently, Ezra Green Iguana was out for a stroll and happened across the non-creeping creep of tortoises. Ezra pulled himself up into the nice warm shells and laid down. He laid his head on Rose Red-footed Tortoise and took a nap.

Even though Rose Tortoise could feel Ezra on her shell, she didn’t move, allowing Ezra to use her as her comfy pillow.

Book Note: The reptiles I live with are an endless source of interesting stories about what they’re like with me and with each other. I enjoy their company tremendously and they inspire me to write and create science books about reptiles that are both educational and FUN. Here are some I’ve written about the Sonoran Desert. You can learn all about the Night-Blooming Cereus from my illustrated book written in rhyme by clicking here. Click on the image to see my ‘Don’t Series,’ which are also written in fun rhymes. Making science fun is my pleasure!

photo of Sonoran Desert Book Covers

#elaineapowers   #tortoises  #scienceisfun  #greeniguana  #funsciencebooks

Lights! Camera! Action! (and Scratches!)

With the pandemic, my reptile talks have moved to video, instead of live, presentations. I talk about reptiles every Thursday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. MST at my Facebook page, Elaine Powers. I hope you’ll join me tomorrow for my Reptile-Side Chat, when the green iguanas and I talk about color, chromatophores, and so much more! C’mon–it’ll be fun! Bring the kids–they’ll really enjoy the iguanas.

I’m discovering that some of my reptiles are not thrilled with new technology. I was surprised that Blue Rock Iguana, the star of my in-person talks, did not have any patience with being viewed over my laptop! Usually, he stays still as I hold him for everyone to see.  Not in front of the computer! He had no patience and had had enough of  being held after a few moments. I did get some impressive scratches upon his departure.

photo of a rock iguana hybrid
Blue likes to escape from his enclosure at home, too!

Calliope Green Iguana wasn’t old enough or big enough for me to take along on talks in 2019 and early 2020.  However, she has grown nicely over the past year and is now an excellent size for talks. Even though she happily rides around on my shoulder at home and, as my writing muse, she is delighted to watch me write, she was not willing to be used for a demonstration during my talk. I hope she reconsiders her behavior, since I plan on using her in future talks.

I do have experience with green iguanas in performance. Two of my iguanas were featured in a television commercial for Corazon Tequila. 

Credits & Description: Company: DEVITO/VERDI, USA, New York Creative Director: Sal Devito Copywriter: John Devito Art Director: Manny Santos Agency Producer: Karen Tomlin Director: Kenan Moran Editor: Jerry Fried The TV Commercial Ad titled GREEN IGUANA was done by Tequila New York advertising agency in United States. It was released in the Apr 2006.

The two iguanas who made it on screen were Jubby (blue) and Algae (yellow). However, four iguanas were taken for the shoot, because I didn’t know who would cooperate. The large male, Jimmy, was a disaster (as I suspected he would be, but the director had liked his looks). I was surprised that Noel had no interest, but Jubby and Algae and turned out to be regular hams. They endured take after take, for three hours! They were filmed from a variety of directions, since the director was intrigued by their performances. This resulted in a fifteen second commercial. I was amused that my iguanas had an acting agent, but I, an actor and script writer, did not!

 

photo of green iguana named Algae
Algae, the TV star

Here are Algae and Noel.

photo of green iguana named Noel
Noel, who said no to fame

graphic Facebook Live Reptile Side Chat

I hope you’ll join me tomorrow on Facebook as the greens and I talk about iguanas.

A Creep or a Convergence?

With Spring, the tortoises wander about more actively. The brumating species, like the Sonoran Desert and Sulcata tortoises, emerge from my bedroom to join the now more ever-wandering red-footed tortoises. I have a heat lamp set up in the front room where the tortoises can sit and bask. Usually, one or two will be utilizing the basking spot at a time. However, one fine day, all the tortoises had a spring in their step and met at the warm spot. They were happy to share the food and the warmth, so they could digest properly.

Normally, the tortoises in the photo above would be called a creep of tortoises, but on this day, they were a convergence of tortoises.

P.S. There are three species of tortoises in the picture. Can you identify which is which?

screen shot from Reptile-Side Chat
April is Iguana Month!

Note: Please join me tomorrow, Thursday, April 8 at 3:00 p.m. MST on my Facebook page for my informative and fun chat about Rock Iguanas, Cyclura species. April is Iguana Month and I will be introducing you to some of my iguana roomies–tomorrow the very handsome big guy, Blue.

#AuthorElaineAPowers
#TortoiseID
#RockIguanas
#ReptileSideChat
#AprilisIguanaMonth
#ElaineAPowers.com
#LyricPower.net
#FunScienceBooks

I Should Have Known the Collective Noun for Iguanas!

Until today, I didn’t know the collective noun for iguanas. I should have, since I’ve had more than one for around 30 years. I knew that a group of tortoises was a “creep,” and it’s a “bale” of turtles. The general term for lizards is “lounge.” I think some of my iguanas are willing to lounge around.

The collective noun for iguanas is a “mess.” Why, you and I might ask? Iguanas may intertwine in large groups, especially when they are gathered around a heat source. It’s hard to tell where one iguana ends, and another begins. They are ectotherms, or cold-blooded, so iguanas get their body heat from the environment or my body, as in this photo of Calliope and me. She is my writing muse, named after the Muse of Long Poetry.

photo of elaine powers with her iguana muse, Calliope

One of my friends from the Southern US mentioned that “mess” refers to something else, as in a “mess of greens.” The greens she was referring to are collard, turnip and mustard greens, all of which are enjoyed by my reptilian family members, too. Of course, in my case, it may be accurate to say I do have a mess of greens: a mess of green iguanas.

How much or many is a mess? It is undefined, but in food, it is usually enough to feed a family.

I’d agree that my mess of greens is always exactly the right amount for my family.

a red. hybrid green iguana
Youngster Chile being his curious self.

 

an older green iguana on grass
Ezra, who is in his 20s, on the grass in my backyard

Book Note: While I haven’t yet written a lot of books about iguanas, I have written one important one called Silent Rocks. It is about how to save the endangered Rock Iguanas of Cayman Brac, and teachers can use it to show how human activity endangers the lives of other species.

I’ve also written an adventure tale that includes an iguana, called The Dragon of Nani Cave. It features two lime lizards, Gene and Bony, who must do the bravest thing possible–find the dragon of Nani Cave, and survive!

 

white book cover with rock iguana photo on cover

book cover illustration with two lizards
The Lime Lizard Lads, Gene and Bony, LOVE exploring
their island home, where the bravest thing possible is to go see the Dragon of Nani Cave.
An Adventure Tale For Readers Age 8+
48 pages
Fun and Colorful Illustrations of the many
animals they encounter, including the Dragon,
by Anderson Atlas

Wear Green on Wednesday, March 17th–It’s Green Iguana Day! by Curtis Curly-tail Lizard

Hello, my fine reptile friends! It’s me, Curtis Curly-tail! I’ve been curled up in my den on Warderick Wells a lot lately, but I HAD to peek out because this Wednesday is March 17th, when we all wear green—for Green Iguana Day! Some of my best friends like Ezra above are Green Iguanas and I love to celebrate this day with them. Check out Green Iguana Day in the video starring . . . ME, of course!

Graphic for Curtis curly-tail speaks

And maybe you can watch some of the other videos at Curtis Curly-tail Speaks, where I introduce my reptile friends. You’ll likely learn something fun about other animals that you didn’t know. That’s my job, and I’m stickin’ to it!

Don’t forget to wear green on Wednesday, March 17th!

Book Note: My friend, Allison Andros Iguana is not a green iguana (she has a lovely red head and a black body), but she is very brave! You can learn about the flora and fauna of the Exuma Islands when you come along on our adventure in the latest book in my series: Curtis Curly-tail is Blown Away. Elaine A. Powers writes about how the animals of the islands survive hurricanes, and she weaves this into a tale of friendship and courage that is available at Amazon.com. Elaine loves to make science education fun.

children's book cover about Curtis Curly-tail lizard and a hurricane in the Bahamas
Curtis Curly-tail wants to help his friends survive a hurricane. But Curtis is blown away!
What happens to the iguanas on Beach Cay? Will Curtis be blown back home to Warderick Wells?

An Adventure Tale For Readers Age 8+      30 Pages
Gorgeous Illustrations by  Monique Carroll

 

Fossil Iguana Burrow in The Bahamas?

Even though Rock Iguanas (Cyclura nubila caymanensis) make their dens and escape holes in the limestone karst of the Caribbean islands, the females still need sand to lay their eggs. Females dig a burrow tunnel, lay their eggs in a chamber, then back fill it in—the iguana mothers cover over the entrance area to hide the presence of the eggs. I have watched females dig their dens and after their concealment efforts, I was unable to find the burrow entrance. Once the eggs hatch, the baby iguanas dig their way out of the tunnel to the surface.

Researchers have published an article stating they found a fossil iguana burrow on an island in The Bahamas: First known trace fossil of a nesting iguana (Pleistocene) The Bahamas  by Anthony J. Martin, Dorothy Stearns, Meredith J. Whitten, Melissa M. Hage, Michael Page, and Arya Basu.

Illustration by Anthony Martin of prehistoric iguana burrow

Illustration shows a cross section of the prehistoric iguana burrow, and how the surrounding landscape may have looked during the Late Pleistocene Epoch. (Credit: Anthony Martin.)

Anthony Martin is shown at the top of the page next to the trace fossil of the Pleistocene iguana burrow. (Credit: Melissa Hage.) The fossilized burrow dates back to the Late Pleistocene Epoch, about 115,000 years ago. The island still has iguanas, but they are critically endangered.

“After further investigation, Martin and his co-authors determined that the trace fossil he noticed on the limestone outcrop was that of a nesting iguana burrow. Ample evidence, including a nearby fossil land-crab burrow discovered by Hage, showed that the outcrop was a former inland sand dune, where iguanas prefer to lay their eggs.”

It is reasonable to assume fossilized sand dens would both be difficult to create and to be discovered, so if this is an ancient iguana nesting den, it is very exciting. Several iguana researchers doubt the conclusions of the authors, however. One point in question is that iguanas’ nesting dens are not dug straight down – they angle down slightly from the surface until the desired incubation temperature is found. They nesting chambers are not dug straight down as they appear to be in the fossil.

But that’s the great thing about science. Ideas are proposed and then evidence for and against the conclusions are presented and discussed.

photo San Salvador rock iguanas are critically endangered. Credit Anthony Martin.

The modern-day San Salvador rock iguanas are critically endangered. Credit: Anthony Martin.

One conclusion is certain: The San Salvador Rock Iguana is critically endangered. Hopefully, the current population can be preserved and not become known only as a fossil species.

For more information on iguanas and lizards and tortoises and turtles and snakes and roadrunners and desert plants and even a very special fairy (!), check out all the books here at elaineapowers.com.

January 28th is NATIONAL HAVE FUN AT WORK DAY

Working from Home with our Pets

January 28th is National Have Fun at Work Day and with the pandemic, many people who would go to work in an office or at least away from home, are now telecommuting or video conferencing. We find ourselves trying to convince our companion-animal family members to maintain professional boundaries. (Although, I’ll bet everyone enjoys watching other people’s pets photo-bomb their meetings.)

My household is no different. Meetings that I would attend in person are now virtual through my laptop. Even though my family members are reptiles, they feel the same need as mammals to participate. You’d think noise wouldn’t be an issue with animals that don’t bark, meow or squawk. But, my iguanas get creative. As soon as I log in, Chile Green Iguana (photo above) starts his gymnastics in his wire enclosure. He uses his full length to clank the sides and shelves as much as possible.

photo of Myrtle red foot tortoise pusing chair

Then I feel my chair start to move away from the table. Myrtle Redfoot Tortoise is underneath me, pushing as hard as she can, successfully rolling the chair and me away from the computer.

Calliope Green Iguana
Calliope Green Iguana checking to be sure Myrtle doesn’t roll me too far from the meeting.
Rose Red-foot Tortoise
Rose Red-foot Tortoise stops by so I’ll take a break from work and scratch hr shell.

Other family members merely stop by to see who I am speaking with or to ensure that I am working as I should be.

I hope you, too, are having fun at work, whether it is away from home or at home.  Co-workers can be very entertaining.

Book Note: My co-workers are my inspiration for many of my books. I hope you’ll check them out at My Books.

Don’t Call Me Turtle was inspired by my tortoise, Myrtle, pictured above.

photo of a children's book cover, entitled Don't Call Me Turtle
There are many differences between tortoises and turtles, and the wise tortoise who narrates this book tells us about ten of those differences–in rhyme.
She also says, “Don’t Call Me Turtle!” (Even if my name should be Myrtle.)

Uh, Oh! A Green Iguana Found in Sweetwater Wetlands Needs a New Home

Here is Albert finishing up his recovery in foster care. By the way, he’s very adept at using his magnificent tail for defense!

The Sonoran Desert is not known for its wetlands. That’s why the Sweetwater Wetlands are so special. This isn’t a natural wetlands, but was created by the City of Tucson’s reclaimed water system. Reclaimed water is used exclusively in the wetlands. Visitors have access to the wetlands and the inhabitants through 2.5 miles of pathways.

Surface water attracts wildlife in the desert, so many can be seen in the Sweetwater Wetlands. Being particularly fond of reptiles, I’m curious about what kinds might be there. Several reptiles are known to inhabit the wetlands, such as the Tree Lizard (Urosaurus ornatus), Western Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata), Sonoran Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer affnis) and the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox).

However, recently a reptile was seen that definitely did not belong there. It’s bad enough that Red-eared Slider turtles (Trachemys scripta elegans) have been introduced there, and the Sweetwater Wetlands does not need Green Iguanas (Iguana iguana).

Unfortunately, green iguanas have become invasive in many ecosystems around the world because people release them where they don’t belong, like the Sweetwater Wetlands. Part of my work in iguana conservation is to help people identify green iguanas. If you’d like more information on iguanas, please visit my website and contact me through elaineapowers.com.

After several reports were received about a male iguana in the wetlands, the Animal Experts were called. They had to wade through the water to reach the tree where the iguana was hanging out. Definitely, an incredible adventure. The men were able to successfully retrieve the lizard. You can follow their story on Animal Experts on Facebook.

The iguana was taken to a local reptile veterinarian who discovered he had a large bladder stone. It is suspected that this is why he was released. The staff named him Albert. Surgery was performed to remove the stone and Albert was put into foster care to recover.

photo of large bladder stone removed from iguana
Photo of the bladder stone removed by Dr. Jarchow of Orange Grove Animal Hospital.

A GoFundMe account was set up to help pay for Albert’s medical costs. As soon as he has healed, Albert will be put up for adoption. Hopefully, Albert will find a forever home soon.

Book Note: I wrote a book called Silent Rocks about the critically endangered rock iguanas of Cayman Brac, and how they need the help of humans to survive. If you’d like to help, book information is here and it is available at Amazon.com.

white book cover with rock iguana photo on cover
The endemic Sister Isle Rock Iguana of Cayman Brac is critically endangered. This poignant book shows why* and how we humans can help. Includes many photographs of these magnificent large lizards.
*Silent Rocks can be used to teach how humans endanger many species.

John Bendon’s Works of Art Are Also Important Scientific Records

In my work as a citizen-scientist helping on iguana conservation projects, I had the privilege of meeting the very talented artist, John Bendon, of the United Kingdom. You don’t have to take my word for his talent – some of his drawings are included in this post.  A few years ago, I purchased a couple of his drawings at a fundraiser.  The detail in the drawing is incredible. These are more than accurate scientific drawings—they are works of art. I purchased the prints because of their beauty but didn’t know the story behind the drawings. At a recent conference, John gave a talk. I learned the background of these animals.

John was in the Galapagos on South Plaza Island which has both land (Conolophus subcristatus) and marine (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) iguanas. He came across the animal depicted above and suspected that this iguana was actually a hybrid of the two species. The scale patterns of the iguana he was studying didn’t match either of the other species. Instead, the physical characteristics seemed to be a mix of the two. This lizard has a bit of the yellow coloration found in the land iguanas but also the black coloration of the marine. The head shape is different, too. Fortunately, John was able to reproduce the detail of the scales and head in his drawings. These drawings are not only works of art but important scientific records.

illustration of a marine iguana by John Bendon
The head of a marine iguana by John Bendon

For more works by John and the causes he supports, visit https://www.iucn-isg.org/publications/

For children’s books that include iguanas in the stories, visit My Books at elaineapowers.com.

 

book cover illustration with two lizards
The Lime Lizard Lads, Gene and Bony, LOVE exploring their island home, where the bravest thing possible is to go see the Dragon of Nani Cave.
An Adventure Tale For Readers Age 8+
48 pages
Fun and Colorful
Illustrations of the many animals they encounter, including the Dragon! By Anderson Atlas

Interested in Becoming a Citizen-Scientist?

Recently, I posted on my social media about a citizen-scientist opportunity that you could do from the comfort of your home. This project was through Zooniverse.

For an iguana study, people were needed to look at photos and count the iguanas they could see. The scientists took the photos and cut them into little pieces. The resulting 25,000 images were shown 20 times. Four thousand volunteers participated. Two thousand to 10,000 images were classified each day.

photo of chopped up images of iguanas

In some images, the iguanas were challenging to find, while in others they were more obvious.

photo 2 of chopped up pics of iguanas

If you’d like to participate in scientific work, Zooniverse needs help with other projects. This work can be safely done from home, no traveling required, and you can contribute to important conservation efforts.

Book Note: And if you’d like to learn more about the remarkable large lizards called iguanas, grab a copy of My Unit Study on Iguanas from Lyric Power Publishing today! It’s on sale until 12/31/20.

Graphic image book cover about iguanas
Thirty pages of Iguana information and fun activity sheets for grades 2-4. Includes coloring pages, fact sheets, T/F about reptiles, parts of an iguana coloring page, compare animal traits, name matching, count and classify, reptile spelling page, life cycle of the iguana cut-and-paste activity, ecology word problems, iguana word problems, creative writing prompt, opinion writing exercise, mean, mode, median, and range worksheets, counting iguanas, histogram worksheet, grams-to-pounds worksheet, trace the words and color, short i sound, create an iguana puzzle.

Humans Have Always Moved Animals–Let’s Do So for the Right Reasons

At a recent conservation meeting in the Caribbean regarding iguanas, there was discussion about establishing additional colonies on islands, so that the lizards would be protected from human-caused threats. The selected islands included their historical homes and new, safe places.
Of course, moving animals is nothing new. Mankind has been moving and introducing animals to new locations throughout history–but rarely has this been beneficial to the native species. Pigs and goats, released to be eventual food sources, have been introduced to islands as natural “livestock pens.” Sadly, livestock often destroy the islands’ ecosystems.
In recent times, iguanas have been moved by people from one island to another, seemingly just because they can. Maybe it happens because the lizards are so attractive and people want some in their previously iguana-free zone, but they are also taken as a food source. Iguanas have been eaten for centuries, although they are now protected from hunting and consumption. Others may think they are helping the iguanas achieve more genetic mixing by adding individuals from one isolated populations to another.
Consequently, scientists prefer to ensure the safety of the iguanas and the island’s environment when translocating them.
Setting up a new community of iguanas is more than just grabbing a few of them and dumping them on their new home. Iguanas are selected by sex, age, reproductive fitness and health status.
Of course, the islands are carefully pre-screened before the iguanas are collected. There must be proper food, no invasive animal species, like mice and rats, den sites and perhaps most importantly, nesting sites. Once the appropriate candidate iguanas have been selected, captured, and examined, they aren’t just plopped onto the island. No, they must wait until the food they ate on their home island has cleared their guts. Iguanas are important seed disperses, but bringing foreign plants onto the receiving island must be prevented. Islands need to be protected from invasive plant species as well.
The possibility of increasing the ranges of critically endangered iguanas is exciting. It’s worth the years of planning that goes into making these projects realities! If you’d like to participate in these efforts, please donate to your favorite conservation organization, or volunteer as a citizen scientist. But don’t pick up an iguana and toss it onto another island!
Some organizations involved in iguana conservation are the International Iguana Foundation, IUCN Iguana Specialist Group, International Reptile Conservation Foundation, The Shedd Aquarium, The Trust of The Bahamas, and The Trust of the Cayman Islands, to name a few.

Book Note: Want to learn more about these wonderful creatures? Go to My Unit Study on Iguanas at Lyric Power Publishing–it’s 30 pages of fun activities and coloring pages for $1.47 until December 31, 2020.

Graphic image book cover about iguanas
Thirty pages of Iguana information and fun activity sheets for grades 2-4. Includes coloring pages, fact sheets, T/F about reptiles, parts of an iguana coloring page, compare animal traits, name matching, count and classify, reptile spelling page, life cycle of the iguana cut-and-paste activity, ecology word problems, iguana word problems, creative writing prompt, opinion writing exercise, mean, mode, median, and range worksheets, counting iguanas, histogram worksheet, grams-to-pounds worksheet, trace the words and color, short i sound, create an iguana puzzle.

November 19th is National Carbonated Beverage with Caffeine Day

When I saw that November 19 was National Carbonated Beverage with Caffeine Day, I immediately thought of my favorite soda, Mountain Dew.  I prefer the light citric crispness of Diet Mountain Dew.  I was attracted to the name, slang for moonshine, and its bright green color, of course. The color reminds me of green iguanas.

Mountain Dew was created in the 1940s by Tennessee brothers Barney and Ally Hartman as a mixer for liquor. I’m not surprised since I like to mix Diet Mountain Dew with flavored vodka or rum. The current version of Mountain Dew was released in 1961. My favorite form, diet, didn’t come along until 1988.

Over the years, there have been many debates between lovers of Coca-Cola and fans of Pepsi Cola, but I will always Do the Dew!

Book Note: To have fun learning all about the big lizards, Iguanas, and other reptiles, check out Lyric Power Publishing LLC’s workbooks and activity sheets. Click on My Unit Study on Iguanas to go directly to the download page. Economical, fun and comprehensive, the workbook can be printed as many times as you need!

Graphic image book cover about iguanas
Thirty pages of Iguana information and fun activity sheets for grades 2-4. Includes coloring pages, fact sheets, T/F about reptiles, parts of an iguana coloring page, compare animal traits, name matching, count and classify, reptile spelling page, life cycle of the iguana cut-and-paste activity, ecology word problems, iguana word problems, creative writing prompt, opinion writing exercise, mean, mode, median, and range worksheets, counting iguanas, histogram worksheet, grams-to-pounds worksheet, trace the words and color, short i sound, create an iguana puzzle.

Did You Know Reptiles Have Sleepovers?

Did you know reptiles have sleep-overs, too? While mammals hibernate in cold weather, reptiles brumate.

I’m not just talking about different species cohabitating, or sharing dens, during brumation. No, I’m talking about reptiles sleeping over when they are inside a dwelling–even those that have entire houses to roam and numerous corners to sleep in.

photo of tortoises sleeping together
Flipper, Gladiola and Zoe sleeping together.

Take this group, for example. Flipper, Gladiola and Zoe gather at a door to a room they’re not allowed in. Was this how they wanted to spend the night? No, Gladiola decided to find another bed, but Flipper and Zoe were content and wedged themselves into the corner.

But don’t worry, Flipper and Zoe weren’t alone very long. As you can see in the picture at the top of this post, Calliope Green Iguana had to join in the fun. She didn’t even need any ground space. She was content to use the tortoises for her bed. The tortoises don’t mind.

It’s extra nice when you can sleep with friends. Just ask us humans–many of us are very much looking forward to hanging out with family and friends again. Until then, we will dream of each other and a warmer future . . .

Book Note: Did you know rattlesnakes have sleepovers? And that mother rattlers babysit for each other? Or that the young aren’t born from eggs? You can learn all about these things and much, much more about rattlesnakes in my book Don’t Make Me Rattle! It is packed with information about rattlers for educating your children and to their delight, it is written in rhyme. Teach children to understand, and not fear, these snakes who want only to live in peace and play their role in the great circle of life (keeping vermin in check so they don’t overrun the planet).

*See The “Don’t” Series here.

book cover graphic of rattlesnake

There’s Much More to Me
Than You Know!
I Am Shy and My
Rattle is Only a Warning:
Please, Stay Away!

For All Ages
Reading Level 8+

Bold and Vibrant Illustrations
by Nicholas Thorpe

Written in Rhyme
40 pages

COMPLETE
BOOK DESCRIPTION HERE

 

Let ME Tell You How to Find a Lizard! by Curtis Curly-tail Lizard

Hello, my friends! It’s been a while! I’m just getting back home after the hurricane on Beach Cay. Phew! THAT was an adventure! If you’d like to see what I’ve been up to, Curtis Curly-tail is Blown Away is now available at Amazon.com. But I’m back, and my friend, Elaine Powers, author, asked me to tell you how to find a lizard. I’d be happy to!

Some of my lizard cousins live “in captivity” with humans. This living situation has advantages and disadvantages. A caring person will provide hiding spots for young lizards, so they feel comfortable. We lizards retain all our survival instincts in captivity and like to hide from possible predators. And, young lizards are so very tasty. (I hear the seagulls talking about this on my beach. Shudder.)

There is one problem with good hiding places, however. On occasion, it becomes hard for the human to locate their reptilian family member.

The photo above is what Twizzler, a Spiny-tail iguana’s, human saw when looking for the young iguana. Is that a lizard body part? she thought. Or just another piece of the plastic rock formation?

Okay, yes, it was a body part. When she looked behind the rock, she saw identifiable parts of Twizzler, his snout and tail.

 

a rock from an iguana's enclosure
Can you see an iguana knee in this photo? Please comment below and tell me where it is. Thank you! Curtis

And what is the part of Twizzler’s body seen in front of this rock? His human claims Twizzler’s knee is in the picture. I’m a lizard and I can’t see it! Can you? Please make a note for me in the comments, if so. I’d love to know where it is. Thank you for your help.

I do have a clue if you ever need to find a lizard: Remember to look for the tail. We lizards often forget to pull in our tails. Of course, Twizzler could have felt comfortable enough to leave his tail out. After all, there are no predators in his enclosure, and he knows that now.

Now, back to me! Here is my latest adventure story. I just love being the star of Warderick Wells and having my friends see me on You Tube!

children's book cover about Curtis Curly-tail lizard and a hurricane in the Bahamas
In this story, I join Allison Andros Iguana to warn the iguanas of Beach Cay about the impending hurricane. Low lying areas are particularly vulnerable to the storm surges, high rainfall and powerful winds of hurricanes. Small islands or cays here in the Bahamas can be completely washed over. Beach Cay, the setting of Curtis Curly-tail is Blown Away, has entire populations of endemic animals, such as the iguanas like Allison. One powerful hurricane could wipe out her entire species.

Until next time, you all take care out there. Be good to each other–life is short.

Sweet Iguana Dreams, My Friends

Every night I say “Sweet Iguana Dreams” to my iguana family members. Some people would think that is a silly thing to say, since iguanas are said not to dream. But I think they do. Iguanas are diurnal, active during the day and they sleep at night. In fact, they can sleep very soundly. I’ve been known to use this deep slumber to move aggressive iguanas or to clip the long toenails of recalcitrant family members.

Usually, the sleeping iguanas stretch out, with their arms relaxed alongside the torso.

photo of sleeping iguana
Sleeping comfortably and perhaps dreaming!

I’ve had a few hundred iguanas reside in my rescue over several years. Generally, they sleep quietly through the night. Every now and then, I would hear thrashing in the night and find an iguana asleep, rolling, snapping his or her tail, legs running in place. I believe these iguanas were having bad dreams, perhaps trying to escape a predator. Since they had been rescued, I hoped they weren’t dreaming about fleeing an abusive human.

I gently stroked the disturbed lizard’s back until they woke up, eyes wide open, looking around in panic. For some iguanas, this was enough and they would relax and go back to sleep. Others wanted to be held and comforted, which I was always happy to do.

This article in Scientific American gives a good summary about reptiles and REM sleep. See? They do have the potential to dream as you and I do.

May all your dreams be “sweet iguana dreams,” too.

NOTE: To learn more about these fascinating creatures, and for some fun with coloring, cutting and pasting, puzzles, charting, and more, see My Unit Study on Iguanas, proudly published by Lyric Power Publishing LLC.

Graphic image book cover about iguanas
Thirty pages of Iguana information and fun activity sheets for grades 2-4. Includes coloring pages, fact sheets, T/F about reptiles, parts of an iguana coloring page, compare animal traits, name matching, count and classify, reptile spelling page, life cycle of the iguana cut-and-paste activity, ecology word problems, iguana word problems, creative writing prompt, opinion writing exercise, mean, mode, median, and range worksheets, counting iguanas, histogram worksheet, grams-to-pounds worksheet, trace the words and color, short i sound, create an iguana puzzle.

It’s a Climbing-the-Walls Kind of Time

Here, my youngest iguana, Twizzler Spiny-tail Iguana, is demonstrating that he is literally climbing the wall.

by Elaine A. Powers

If you’re like me, you’re spending more time at home than usual. Of course, this should help my writing output, but I often get distracted by the news of the world. Fortunately, I live with an assortment of animals who help me maintain my mental wellbeing.

At first my reptiles, many of whom free-roam my house, enjoyed having me around. They’d join in at my work area and sit at my feet, or wander by, walking over my feet or pushing my wheeled-chair. I liked the attention.

But over time, I noticed they weren’t around me as much. They had been accustomed to me traveling and having other caregivers while I was gone. Absence made their hearts grow fonder. Now, they have found favorite spots to hang out in in other rooms, especially the spare bedroom.

Was it something I said? Maybe I’m watching too much news or it’s been too long without me taking a trip. Well, we’ve all got our own space, so we should be content, right?

Nope! Today I realized that my reptiles may be experiencing enough stress to drive them “up the wall.” The phrase means being irritated or angry enough that one feels the need to escape, even if it means climbing up and over walls.

photo of iguana climbing back down the wall of cageTwizzler was eventually able to relax and made his way back down and settled into the day’s activities.

 

 

 

elaine a powers with rhino iguana rango
Here I am with Rhino Iguana Rango. Isn’t she a beauty?

As you can see above, iguanas can become quite large. So, when I wrote The Dragon of Nani Cave–well, the dragon isn’t really a dragon. It’s an iguana and only seems like a dragon to small Curly-tail lizards, the Lime Lizard Lads, who work up enough courage  to go find the dragon (with a little help from their friends). While the lizards are having an adventure, young readers are learning all about ecosystems (and they don’t even know it). That’s what we do around here–make learning about science fun!

Grab a copy today and while you’re at it, click the links below to check out the coordinating activity sheets and workbooks that reinforce the educational material in the book. They are lots of fun and help to pass the many hours at home.

book cover illustration of two lizards

 The Lime Lizard Lads, Gene and Bony, LOVE exploring their island home, where the bravest thing possible is to go seethe Dragon of Nani Cave.

An Adventure Tale For Readers Age 8+  48 pages

Fun and Colorful Illustrations of the many animals they encounter, 
including the Dragon! By Anderson Atlas 

Gene and Bony are bored. They go see Old Soldier Crab who tells them wondrous, dangerous creatures live up on the bluff. And, if they go, they must prove themselves worthy and return with a piece of Caymanite.

They must journey through Skull Cave and meet bats, and a cat with sharp teeth. Then they meet Kat, a fellow Curly-tail Lizard and she knows the way to Nani Cave. But she warns there might be more than one dragon.

Meeting one danger after another, they finally arrive at Nani Cave. There he is: the dragon! He’s HUGE! And look at all those teeth!

What will Gene and Bony do now?

KEEP THE FUN GOING!
COORDINATING WORKBOOKS AND
ACTIVITY SHEETS AVAILABLE AT
LYRIC POWER PUBLISHING, LLC:

MY  READING BOOK AND COLORING PAGES FOR THE DRAGON OF NANI CAVE

MY UNIT STUDY ON IGUANAS

MY BOOK ABOUT BATS AND RATS

NINE PLANTS OF THE CAYMAN ISLANDS

FIVE WAYS TO PROTECT CAYMAN BRAC WILDLIFE COLORING BOOK

MY PASSPORT TO THE CAYMAN ISLANDS

ANIMALS OF NANI CAVE AND
CAYMAN BRAC COLORING PAGES

ANIMALS OF CAYMAN BRAC
AND 13-MONTH CALENDAR

I wrote Silent Rocks, but Susan Mule Gives a Dramatic Reading!

 

Above Susan Mule of the Cayman Islands reads Silent Rocks.

Of particular importance to me are the two endemic iguana species on the islands of Cayman Brac, the blue iguana found on Grand Cayman and the Sister Isle Rock Iguana found on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. I’ve done field work with the latter and enjoy going back every year to how my reptilian friends are doing. In fact, I wrote the book Silent Rocks: Iguanas of Cayman Brac to help inform people about how the iguanas are being needlessly killed.

 

book cover with photo of iguana from Cayman Brac

The endemic Sister Isle Rock Iguana of Cayman Brac is critically endangered. This poignant book shows why* and how we humans can help. Includes many photographs of these magnificent large lizards.

*Silent Rocks can be used to teach how humans endanger many species

“That’s MY Bed!”

Among the many reptiles I share my home with is a rhinoceros rock iguana who usually free roams my house. She basks under the heat lamps with the tortoises, shares the plates of veggies and finds sunbeams to relax in. Mid-afternoon, it’s time to head under some rocks for a nap. 

No, I don’t have rocks in my house, but I do have pillows on the sofa, which is her designated sleeping place. Recently, however, she has discovered my bed. It, too, has pillows. And it has a blanket where she can stretch out her entire body. She’s over four feet long.

I head to bed late in the evening, looking forward to laying my head on my pillows, all four of them, only to discover my bed is already occupied.

“Hey, Rango, that’s my bed!”  So, I picked up the sleeping lizard and carried her to the sofa.

Then, things came to an interesting point. I needed a nap this afternoon, so I got into bed. I hear the tick-tick-tick of approaching iguana feet – they have nails on the ends on their toes which click on the tile floor.

“Uh, oh, will someone be joining me in bed?” 

I feel a body knock against the frame. A body impact with the mattress. But no one comes up—I think. Later I turn over to see me being watched by a very confused iguana.

What in the world was I doing in her bed!

Note: You might be able to tell how much I enjoy sharing my home with iguanas. To learn more about these intelligent and interesting reptiles, see My Unit Study on Iguanas at Lyric Power Publishing’s Workbook page.

Graphic image book cover about iguanas
Thirty pages of Iguana information and fun activity sheets for grades 2-4. Includes coloring pages, fact sheets, T/F about reptiles, parts of an iguana coloring page, compare animal traits, name matching, count and classify, reptile spelling page, life cycle of the iguana cut-and-paste activity, ecology word problems, iguana word problems, creative writing prompt, opinion writing exercise, mean, mode, median, and range worksheets, counting iguanas, histogram worksheet, grams-to-pounds worksheet, trace the words and color, short i sound, create an iguana puzzle.

And one of my fun children’s science books (written in the form of an adventure tale) features The Dragon of Nani Cave which, when you’re a small curly-tail lizard, is an iguana!

 The Lime Lizard Lads,
Gene and Bony, LOVE exploring
their island home, where the bravest
thing possible is to go see
the Dragon of Nani Cave.

An Adventure Tale
For Readers Age 8+

48 pages
Fun and Colorful
Illustrations of the many
animals they encounter, 

including the Dragon!
by Anderson Atlas 

Gene and Bony are bored. They go see Old Soldier Crab who tells them wondrous, dangerous creatures live up on the bluff. And, if they go, they must prove themselves worthy and return with a piece of Caymanite.
They must journey through Skull Cave and meet bats, and a cat with sharp teeth. Then they meet Kat, a fellow Curly-tail Lizard and she knows the way to Nani Cave. But she warns there might be more than one dragon.
Meeting one danger after another, they finally arrive at Nani Cave. There he is: the dragon! He’s HUGE! And look at all those teeth!
What will Gene and Bony do now?
KEEP THE FUN GOING!