Green Iguana Society logo  1999-2001, D. Baze

Typically when you rescue an iguana, you are taking it out of a bad situation. Rescues are usually in poor health and need extra care, including (but not limited to) things like trips to a vet, medications, special feeding techniques, a secure and private place to recover and special psychological nurturing. (Please see section "Special Needs of Rescues") Adoption is a little different. Not all adoptions are from a bad home, and not all of them are unhealthy. There are certain situations when some people simply can no longer properly care for their iguanas. A set-up such as this is usually when an adoption takes place.

Please note: The Green Iguana Society is not a shelter. We are solely a group of on-line volunteers. We do not personally take in iguanas as a part of our affiliation with GIS. We do not have a veterinarian on our team. If you are considering rescuing or adopting an iguana, we thank you and wish you luck. However, we have no regular source of income and cannot assist individuals or organizations with any of their rescue or adoption expenses.

Why rescue or adopt? (The pros)

  • If you want an iguana, its always a good idea to give a home to a needy iguana than to support pet stores (and importers) by buying one from them. (It's the same principle as getting a dog from the Humane Society rather than purchasing one.) (Please see "Good Reasons Why Not To Get Your Iguana From A Pet Store.")

  • By rescuing or adopting, you could save the life of a needy, unhealthy iguana and give it a chance at a longer, happier life.

  • It's very fulfilling to bring an unhealthy iguana back from the brink, to see it begin to thrive and to gain its trust. Often, this creates a very special bond between the rescuer and the rescuee.

  • Working with an unhealthy animal is a rich learning experience. The more you do it, the more comfortable you'll become and the more you'll develop a 'knack' for dealing with such animals.

  • Adopting an adult is preferable to many people, as hatchlings and juveniles tend to be more delicate and skittish than adults.

Why not rescue or adopt? (The cons)

  • Potential health problems with rescued iguanas makes rescuing difficult (and inadvisable) for novice iguana keepers.

  • You can never be 100% sure of the animal's history and background (The previous owners may not be giving you all the gory details you should know).

  • Many rescues have never been properly tamed and can be aggressive, frightened, skittish, etc. Many will become even more so once they become more healthy.

  • Rescues take a lot of special work and finances. Many rescues will need to be seen by a qualified reptile veterinarian, and some will require multiple visits and treatment.

  • Some may never become the pet you desire, They may be too ill to survive in the long run, or they may be too abused to learn to trust humans at all. It's sad, but it happens sometimes.

  • Some people, naturally, want to raise a baby iguana, and babies are hard to come by in rescue and for adoption.

Special needs of a rescue.

A rescued iguana is a very special creature with very special needs. Here are some of the things you'll need to be aware of before making the decision to rescue:

  • A rescue will need a lot of love - but also a lot of space (emotionally speaking, in this instance). You can't rush into interaction with a rescue, or handle them too much right away. They need time to adjust to a new, totally different environment.

  • Unless you are 100% sure of the iguana's history ( and you can't believe everything you are told), the iguana will need a full medical examination. You should have a fecal float, a fecal smear and a full blood panel done by an experienced herp vet. Any treatment and follow ups will be subsequently arranged by your vet.

  • If a rescue iguana is accustomed to an inappropriate diet, you will need to wean them from this diet and gradually integrate a better one. (Example: An iguana that has been raised solely on, say, monkey biscuits and cat food is highly unlikely to start eating a proper diet salad right away.) Allowing an unhealthy iguana to go hungry until he is hungry enough to eat whatever you give him is not the best choice for a rescue. A starving iguana will not be able to recover from trauma. The best thing to do, in my opinion, is to mix whatever it is that they are accustomed to eating in with a proper salad, and gradually (but not too gradually) shrink the amounts of the bad food until it is completely withdrawn from the salad. Please be aware: I am not saying that it's perfectly ok to feed an iguana cat food, because it's not. I'm simply saying that most iguanas won't do well quitting "cold turkey." And an iguana recovering needs calories to do so. The weaning process should never take more than two weeks.

  • Most iguanas are very dehydrated. Depending on the iguana's size, one to ten CC's of Pedialyte™ (or other electrolyte) should be administered by mouth with a needleless syringe for at least a week, or until liquid is clearly apparent when waste is passed.

  • A rescued iguana should never be introduced to any other iguanas (or any other pets you may have) until it has been fully acclimated, is fully de-parasitized (wormed), and has become completely comfortable with you and its new surroundings.

  • A rescued iguana is often an abused iguana, and abused iguanas take a great deal of patience and nurturing. All abused iguanas will be afraid and will not trust you until you break your back trying to prove yourself trustworthy. (And if you are administering necessary meds or forcing electrolytes down them, they are bound to be suspicious.) You must be incredibly patient with a rescue. You have to be able to walk on that fine line between backing off when you need to and not letting it bully you into leaving it alone. Its not easy, but it can be done. You should not push the matter until its physical needs are taken care of, and until it had grown accustomed to his new life, new home, new smells, new sounds, new food, new parent. Once it becomes stable, then it's time to begin the emotional nurturing.

  • Rescuing takes time, patience, skill, money and effort. But it's worth it in every way. Give your rescued iguana a good life, and he will, in return, give you a wonderful animal companion.

Good reasons why not to buy your iguana from a pet store.

  • Most pet stores boast that they only sell "captive bred iguanas." This is usually a half-truth at best. If you dig a little deeper, you find that most of the "captive breeders" actually collect wild gravid females from the wild and put them in 'farms' until they lay their eggs. Then the farmers hatch the eggs and sell these off as "captive bred." This is bad because: a. It is still taking iguanas out of the wild, and it affects our ecosystem, and b. Anything the mothers had (such as a heavy parasite load) could potentially be passed on to the young.

  • Purchasing an iguana will simply encourage the pet store to continue supplying them, which means more people buying them, and if misinformed, killing them or getting rid of them.

  • Pet stores often propagate misinformation (although there are exceptions to any rule) and the more iguanas they sell, the more people are similarly misinformed.

  • If you buy an iguana from a pet store "just to get it out of there" then the pet store will immediately replace it with yet another iguana that "needs out of there."

  • Remember, if there is demand, they will surely supply. If they learn that people will not support their selling of iguanas, they will be forced to buy fewer, thus importing fewer, thus keeping wild iguanas where they the wild.

  • Why support a pet store (and in turn, an importer) when you can adopt an iguana that's already out there, or purchase one from someone who really breeds captive iguanas? (Yes, they are out there.) Like I already stated, the fewer iguanas they sell, the fewer they will buy, and the better off iguanas as a species will be. If half the people in North America adopted an unwanted iguana instead of buying a 'new' one, there would be considerably fewer dead or dying iguanas, less importation and less misinformation floating around. Think about that.

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