Frequently Asked Questions

What are the definitive physical characteristics of the green iguana?
The green iguana has several distinctive characteristics. Below the eardrum it has between one and several enlarged rounded scales. Some iguanas also possess horns on their noses. They also have a flap of skin under the chin known as a dewlap and a crest of spikes extending from the neck to the tail. The colour is predominantly green to grayish, darkening with age so that very old iguanas may appear black.

How big do they grow?
The green iguana can grow to more than 6ft. More than two-thirds of this length is taken up by the tail.

How many types of iguanas are there?
The iguana family has 8 different types, the names of which are listed in the main section. There are also many types of smaller iguanidae lizards.

How can you differenciate between the male and female?
Firstly the male iguana is larger and generally brighter in colour. The fold of skin under the throat is larger as is the crest of spines.

What are the aims of the project?
The central aims are the breeding,raising and later release of the green iguana into the wild, within the safety of the Gandoca-Mandoca wildlife refuge. Secondly the running of an education programme within the local community, starting in local schools to alert people to the situation regarding the green iguana.

When was Iguana Verde started?
Iguana Verde was established in the year 2001 by Costa Rican resident, Mr Edsart Besier

How is the project financed?
Iguana Verde is a non-profit organization. Much of the cost has been met by Edsart Besier. Funding has also come from World Wildlife Fund, the Dutch Embasy in San Jose and other smaller donations from sympathetic organizations and friends of Iguana Verde.

Who are the members of the Iguana Verde foundation?
Mrs C.H.A.M. Eilers, a scientist with a PHD on iguanas, Mr D.J v.d Kolk, Managing Director of Ouwehand Zoo, Holland, Mr C.S Baas, former Managing Director of Bank Mees and Hope, Mr C.L Gerhardt, Manager, Royal Institute of the tropics and Mr A.P Besier, high court judge in Arnhem

How much does it cost to adopt an iguana?
For 15 us dollars you can adopt an iguana. In return you will receive an adoption certificate and can be updated on the project via e-mail. You are also welcome to visit the project.

What do iguanas eat?
The green iguana is 80% herbivorous, usually feeding on plants, fruits, leaves and flowers. Occasionally they will eat small vertebrate such as grasshoppers, crickets and cockroaches. On the project we try to feed our iguanas plants and fruits that are abundant in the area.

How many iguanas exist in the wild?
It is estimated between 500 and 2000 iguanas exist in the wild in theWildlife refuge Gandoca- Manzanillo area at present.

How many are needed to ensure the survival of the species?
Approximately 7500

Why is the species endangered locally?
The green iguana has been hunted locally .While this is illegal there is a belief amongst locals that everyone is entitled to kill one a year. Changes in the climate and encroachment of humans are also contributing factors.

Is the Green Iguana only found in Costa Rica?
No. The green iguana is found in habitats from northern Mexico, through Central America into South America around the Tropic of Capricorn, plus a number of small islands off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.

What is typical habitat for the Green Iguana?
The iguana is most at home in the trees and never far from water. It is an excellent climber using its strong claws to scale tree trunks. To escape a predator it will dive into water and hide among the vegetation until the danger has passed.

What are the mating habits of the green iguana?
Green iguana courtship consists of head -nodding and dewlap (that is the flap of skin under the throat) flapping by both sexes. The male eventually takes the female by the neck in his mouth and if she is responsive he will hold her tail with one of his hind legs and insert one of his hemipenes into her. Copulation usually takes place for between 5 and 45 minutes.

How long is the gestation period?
Between 50 and 100 days, depending on humidity, food supply, temperature etc. Two or three weeks before she deposits the eggs she stops feeding but will drink a lot of water. She will dig a burrow for the eggs and cover it.

How many eggs does the female usually lay?
The average number is between 20 and 40 but as many as 70 has been reported.

Does the green iguana shed its skin?
Like many lizards , they shed most or part of their tail, a process known as autotomy. They do not do this however as some often as other lizards and only as a last resort. Some lizards do this voluntarily. Autotomy is an aid to defense, the lizard makes its escape while the predator is dealing with the wriggling, snapped off tail.

What is the survival rate of the young iguana in the wild?
In the wild, without a safe environment, only one in 300 eggs survive, due to attacks from predators
Does the Green Iguana change colour.

Yes , it will change colour when stressed, perhaps during captivity or conflict, when their colour darkens