"Hard to care for...easy to love" was the slogan for the group of dedicated iguana owners who volunteered their time and efforts to organize "National Iguana Awareness Day" (NIAD). Although NIAD was officially disbanded in 2001, the mission of NIAD remains.
The cornerstone of the NIAD campaign was education, through the dissemination of appropriate care and advice to owners and pet shops selling iguanas. Volunteers were encouraged to hand out pamphlets and flyers, make presentations to interested groups, and make media contacts. Despite dropping the official iguana awareness day, increasing awareness of the proper care of iguanas is certainly an ongoing campaign.
Why NIAD is Needed
Iguanas can make lovely pets, but unfortunately many are sold to ill prepared owners who do not know what they are getting into and how to properly care for iguanas.
Because baby iguanas are so readily available and popular, they are inexpensive and sold in large quantities at pet stores. These stores unfortunately do little to prepare prospective owners for the commitment required to properly care for these beautiful creatures.
Prospective Iguana Owner Information
Iguanas grow to a mature size of 5-6 feet long. With this being said, they need a large enclosure - as large as possible (some lucky iguanas even get their own room).
Adult iguanas are herbivores so they need a variety of freshly prepared fruits and vegetables daily. Like many other animals iguanas can develop preferences for foods that are not necessarily the best for them so ensuring they eat a variety of healthy foods can take patience and persistence.
Iguanas are susceptible to metabolic bone disease, which results from an improper ratio of calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D3 in the body. This is one of the leading causes of death in captive iguanas, yet is almost entirely preventable with proper husbandry and UV lighting.
Iguanas are very strong and have personalities to match. Regular handling and attention will be necessary to keep an iguana tame. Unhappy or irritated iguanas can inflict painful bites or lashes with their powerful tail (trust me, I know).
Iguanas are complex to care for. Their large size and strict husbandry requirements mean they need a lot of space and a lot of care, and it can be expensive and time-consuming to meet their needs. Despite the complexity of caring for an iguana, they are magnificent animals when they are properly loved and can make good pets for those who are prepared to meet the time, space, and other care commitments.
General Iguana Informational Links
Anapsid.org - an excellent, very detailed, and large guide to all aspects of iguana care, by Melissa Kaplan.
Handling and Taming Iguanas - the importance of regular handling and how to deal with aggression.
Book Review of "Iguanas for Dummies" - Melissa Kaplan's book on iguana care.
How to Trim Iguana Claws - a simple guide to keeping iguana claws trim, which makes handling easier.
Metabolic Bone Disease in Reptiles - a serious but largely preventable disease that is very common in iguanas.
Heating and Lighting for Reptiles - providing the right temperatures and UV light is extremely important.
Reptile Salmonella - iguanas, like all reptiles, can carry Salmonella bacteria. Proper hygiene around reptiles is essential. Find out more about it in this article.