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.

What is that Tongue Doing?

I have lived with many iguanas over the years, but Stella, a green iguana, is the only one who constantly sticks her tongue out. I’m always afraid I’ll startle her and she’ll cut her tongue with her razor sharp teeth. Fortunately, that has never happened. Her tongue is intact. 

So, why is her tongue always sticking out? She’s tasting or “smelling” the world around her. Iguanas don’t smell with their noses like people do. They “taste” the world. Scent particles in the air are collected on the tongue, then brought into the mouth. The particles are analyzed by special sensory cells for identification. These cells make up the Jacobson’s or vomeronasal organ. If you watch an iguana walking, you’ll see her flicking her tongue out. If something is particularly interesting, say a tasty bit of food, the tongue flicks back and forth a lot.

Stella’s forked tongue, with which she “tastes” the world.

Another interesting thing about iguana tongues is that they are forked! Just like a snake’s tongue. You might also notice that the end of Stella’s tongue is darker. That’s because it is more enriched with blood. The better for tasting!

Iguanas are fascinating friends. To learn more about them, check out the Lyric Power Publishing workbook with activity sheets, called My Unit Study on Iguanas.

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.

How Do You Know if a Lizard is a Green Iguana? by Curtis Curly-tail

Hello, out there, friends and fans! It’s me, Curtis Curly-tail!

Today, I wanted to ask you if you knew that Green Iguanas, Iguana iguana, come in different colors? And, if they come in different colors, how do you tell if a lizard is a green iguana? 

You look for the subtympanic scale. “What is that?” you ask. Well, I don’t have one, so I had to look it up myself. The subtympanic scale is that large scale on the side of the green iguana’s head.  Sub means below and tympanic means ear.  So, it’s the big scale below the ear. I have a friend who calls that scale the “jewel.” She always admires the beautiful coloring in the iguana jewels.

A blue Green Iguana

Here are some of my green iguana friends, in very different colors. As you can see, they are not just green–but they are all still called “green.” Even the green green iguanas come in different shades of green. It can be confusing, if you ask me.

The native range of the green iguana is southern Mexico to central Brazil and several Caribbean islands. If you don’t live in those areas, why should you know how to identify a green iguana? Because they’re very popular as pets in people’s homes and they have been introduced to many other places in the world, where they don’t belong and can be causing harm. That means they’re “invasive.”

A Green Iguana
If you are interested in passing out these descriptive booklets, which are free, please use the contact form on Elaine’s website to obtain them.

If you want to know the differences between a green iguana and their cousins, the rock iguanas, Lyric Power Publishing, LLC has several identification booklets to help you tell them apart.

Graphic image book cover about iguanas

If you enjoy learning while coloring and doing activities, I encourage you to be creative. To learn more in fun ways about iguanas, please see our 30-page workbook full of activity sheets about iguanas, My Unit Study on Iguanas. Remember that the green iguanas you color, don’t have to be green!

Not Everyone Wants to Be a Star! by Curtis Curly-tail

Hello, friends! It’s me, Curtis Curly-tail! I’m visiting my friend and author of fun science books, Elaine A. Powers. She’s working with Brad Peterson, who is, among other things, a talented graphic artist and animator. He had the idea to educate about reptiles by showing them eating.

Of course, I agreed to help with the videography. (I know—I know what you’re thinking. I love to be in the spotlight, and I do. But, I’m also very curious and I enjoy learning about everything, so I volunteered to be on the filming team.)

graphic of a curly-tail lizard
Check out my You Tube Channel!

As you will see on my YouTube channel Curtis Curly-tail Speaks, many of the family members cooperated.  However, some were shy about being filmed while eating, while others were just plain hostile to the idea.

Turquoise, above, a hybrid green iguana, would not let me film her eating. In fact, she continued to glare at me until I left. And, no matter how I tried to sneak up on her, she wasn’t fooled. That is one alert dragon—I mean, iguana,of course!

Speaking of iguanas, they are awfully large, aren’t they? But quite fascinating. Did you know they don’t have vocal cords and make no sounds?

To learn more about them, check out “My Unit Study on Iguanas,” a 30-page workbook filled with fun and educational activity sheets.

Graphic image book cover about iguanas

The Story of a Green Iguana Named Stella

I am an author of both children’s and adult science books, inspired to write about the world of reptiles. I am as ‘at-home’ with reptiles as I am with mammals–perhaps even more so. And I tend to look after the underdogs.

So, when Stella, a green iguana, was found on a street in Bethlehem, PA, with her tail badly chewed, I took an interest in her. The veterinarian thought it was done by dogs, possibly pit bulls owned by drug dealers. Her rescuers had to amputate most of her gorgeous four-foot tail.

The amputated tail of a green iguana
Stella’s tail was chewed up and had to be amputated.

Stella was full-sized, uncommon for captive green iguanas. Apparently, she had been cared for up until she was separated from her family. Once she had sufficiently healed from her surgery, they sent her to my rescue center in Highbridge, New Jersey. Her health returned, and she soon moved to her forever home with me.

Despite her injuries, she produced eggs after her arrival. She also tried to regenerate her tail, but the stump had been sewn shut.

She likes to hang out with her buddy, Ezra, another green iguana who lives in a nearby separate enclosure. Ezra likes to stand on his rear legs and show off for Stella every now and then. They’re very attentive to each other.

Stella has developed high blood pressure, as evidenced by a swollen nictitating membrane. It is kept under control with medication.

She is a sweet-natured iguana, and it is my pleasure to have her as a pet in my home.