Sales of the Green iguana should be controlled

Dear Editor,

Being a Guyanese it’s not seldom you see a string of Green iguanas tied up in the most inhumane way, awaiting a buyer to be the next meal or pet for a loved one. My heart sickens to see the abusive life these peaceful creatures endure.

Over the years this dreadful act has been observed mainly at Land of Cannan and Little Diamond on the East Bank of Demerara, but now it has become more rampant throughout Guyana with small traders popping up at market places and by roadsides, etc.

The Green iguana is listed in Appendix II of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that any international trade should be carefully monitored to ensure it is compatible with the species’ survival.

Local traders may not be a major threat to their survival, but with the rise in roadside traders, Guyana’s Green iguana population may be on the decline, taking into consideration they reproduce annually and only a small percentage of the hatchlings reach maturity. If sales are not controlled, the Green iguana will eventually be listed on Appendix I, meaning it will be included among the species most endangered and threatened with extinction. CITES prohibits international trade in specimens of these species except when the purpose of the import/export is not for commercial gain.

I urge the public to trap and trade this specimen in a conservative manner, since many depend on the same as a form of income. Great emphasis must be taken with regard to the displaying of the specimen(s) for trade, especially on roadsides.

Being tropical animals, Green iguanas will thrive only in temperatures of 75 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit (24 to 32 degrees Celsius) ‒ not in the scorching midday sun.

Roadside traders should be equipped with suitable display cages (glass or mesh) with sufficient space taking into consideration number, size and sex. There should be adequate shade comprising branches and leafy vegetation. Water and food should be supplied in such quantities and as often as desired.

Buying iguanas as pets has become a popular sport in Guyana. People purchase iguanas due to their small size, low price and apparent low cost of feeding. Here are some key points to note before purchasing an iguana as a pet:

* An iguana will grow to 6 feet in length and weigh some 20 pounds in the right conditions…Surprised?

* An iguana will not grow properly without a UBV light source. The UBV is necessary because captive iguanas do not get natural sunlight and this UBV allows the iguana to make vitamin D3. The purpose of vitamin D3 is to digest calcium. Without being able to digest calcium, the iguana develops Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD). MBD causes soft bones, stunted growth, permanent bone deformities, frequent broken bones, loss of limbs and ultimately, death.

* Although they will consume a wide variety of foods if offered, Green iguanas are naturally herbivorous and require a precise ratio of minerals in their diet. The best food source is dark green leafy vegetables.

* An escaped iguana can become a pest, destroying gardens, landscaping, etc.

* As reptiles can carry salmonella and other bacteria, this is a major concern for pet owners.

* The socialization of an iguana can take several years. Iguanas have individual personalities that require some adaptation on the part of the owner.

* Most veterinarians do not have the training and knowledge to treat an iguana, making treatment difficult to procure, expensive or both.

I would like to acknowledge the work of the Animal Welfare Activist Group of Guyana and its members, especially Ms Syeada Manbodh, Ms Rae Bobb and Ms Shanti Matthews. I encourage the general public to visit our Facebook page and come aboard in preventing animal neglect and abuse countrywide.

Yours faithfully,

Prince Dryden   

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