Vieques is inundated with iguanas. You’ll see these light-green, dark-green, tan or even greyish lizards lounging in trees, ambling along the thoroughfares or scuttling across the road – and not always successfully. Young iguanas are psychedelic green and look like miniature dinosaurs carved out of pistachio ice cream. Classified as Iguana iguana, it is believed these reptiles arrived on Vieques (as well as the rest of the Caribbean) because the Taino Indians dropped off breeding adults on the various islands to ensure a steady food supply upon returning.

  • Male iguanas can reach a length of six feet while females usually attain a length of four.
  • The word “iguana” is derived from the original Taino name for the reptile: “iwana”.
  • To guarantee safe landings and take offs, Puerto Rico’s Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport has an official group of staff to remove wayward reptiles from the landing fields.
  • Iguanas are standard mealtime fare in Mexico, Central and South America and parts of the Caribbean.
  • In the memoir The Life of the Admiral Christopher
    Columbus
    (written by his son) the sailors reported iguana
    meat to be “white, soft and tasty”.
  • In Mexico, iguana eggs are considered superb accompaniments to cocktails. Gravid (egg layden) females are
    captured, incised with a machete, the unlaid eggs removed, and the lizards sown back up and released. Their powers
    of recuperation are remarkable.
  • In Nicaragua, Easter iguana soup (sopa de garrobo) is
    a tradition.
  • Iguanas are highly sensitive to the whistle of predatory hawks and will freeze at the sound.
  • Hawaii has stiff penalties (a three year jail term!) for
    importing iguanas.
  • Iguanas only bite each other. But they do lash their powerful tails lion-tamer style to whip would be assailants. If the tail snaps off, it readily regenerates and bifurcate (two-tailed) specimens are not uncommon.

 

 

About The Author

Scott Appell
writer • horticulture

Scott D. Appell, the Green Man, originally from NYC, is a garden writer, horticultural taxonomist and ethnobotanist. He writes, gardens, and teaches horticulture. He happens to be a professional baker as well.

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