Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last updated January 1, 2014

Zilla: Update On An Iguana Adoption

This was originally posted on the Iguanas Mailing list in response to some questions about the prospects of rescuing older, untamed iguanas and getting them successfully tamed and rehomed.

©2000 Melissa Kaplan


Godzilla.  Photo copyright 1995 Melissa Kaplan.

I just thought I'd share one of my experiences with taking in older, completely untamed iguanas, as it touches upon several subjects that come up regularly on the IML: taming older iguanas, and iguana longevity.

About 5-6 years ago, I took in a completely untamed 6 year old male, Godzilla. After repeatedly biting his owners, they stuck him in the garage for a year or so before finally deciding find someone to take him.









When they brought him to me, he was about the size of a 1-2 year old iguana, had been fed mostly on monkey biscuits and lettuce through the years, and had never, ever had his claws trimmed.


I reached into the Vari-Kennel carrier they brought him in and took him out, and went through the usual 5 minutes or so of thrashing and gaping and hissing (well, he did - I just sorta stood there, holding him, letting him do it) before he calmed enough for me to clip his claws. His owners stood there, amazed: they had never seen him so calm, let alone anyone ever attempt to clip his claws.

Fast forward one year.

Zilla tamed up beautifully - so much so that he started going to schools and education events. He did lose part of his tail at one such event - I had taken one of our volunteers, a young man with a broken ankle, off to the food booths to get some lunch. While I was gone, the volunteer holding Zilla got too close (for Zilla) to the volunteer who was holding the first 4 feet or so of my ultra-tame Burmese python. Apparently, Zilla struggled to get away and either dropped his tail or the volunteer holding him inadvertently stepped on it during the struggle. It did make for, uhm, an educational moment for the general public who was crowded around at the time, as another volunteer jumped in and started talking about autotomy, predator perception, etc. Both the volunteers collapsed in my arms when I returned; Zilla just gave me the Stink Eye.

Zilla thrived on good food and lots of room to roam, doubled in size, and hit breeding season, becoming burnished with gold and orange. He stayed sweet to me and got along well with most of the other igs. But I had too many igs, the flood of incoming never stopping, so I decided he was ready to go to a good home.

About that time I was contacted by a fellow who was blind, married to a woman who is visually impaired. We talked and wrote for a long time, and decided to meet. I figured if it was going to work, it would work with Zilla, but we all wanted to see how it would go. We met and spent several hours together, during which time they handled Zilla, even learned how to clip his claws. Zilla did marvelously well with them, his bright colors and relaxed posture testifying to his comfort, in stark contract to his meeting with another man who wanted to adopt him about the same time. (During that 3 hour encounter, Zilla went from happy colors in my arms to total dark brown within just a few moments in his arms, back to happy colors in mine.) Zilla's colors never wavered when he was with this husband-and-wife. After they went home and discussed it at length, and a few more phone conversations and more email, Zilla moved to Central California via overnight Express Mail.

Fast forward to today.

Zilla is 12 years old, ruler (or so he thinks) of the house that includes cats, a guide dog (whom he still doesn't care for), snakes, a bearded dragon and blue-tongue skink as well as two doting humans. While his early care has stunted him, he has continued to grow in the years since he left me (yes, they feed the "MK diet" ;), now more than double the size (mass) he was when he came to me. He goes to schools and herp events, helping to educate the public about iguanas and why they aren't the best pet for everyone, thrives in his daily routine, and really likes the caretaker who comes in when his "folks" are out of town.

I sometimes regret having adopted out many of the very personable of the healthier igs that have come to me through the years. I made it a point to adopt out the ones I figured had the *least* chance of dying young from animal-protein related kidney failure or effects of their horrendous early care, keeping the "time-bomb" iguanas here with me, figuring that they've been through and will go through enough stress in their lives as it is, without my adding more by sending them to new homes and people. So, I miss growing older with igs like Zilla, making it doubly nice to hear about them from time to time and see pictures of them as they continue to grow and interact with their humans.

2004 Update:
Zilla, now 16 years old, is still doing well with his adopted family.

Related Articles

Burnout: When Rescuers Need Rescuing

Need to update a veterinary or herp society/rescue listing?

Can't find a vet on my site? Check out these other sites.

Amphibians Conservation Health Lizards Resources
Behavior Crocodilians Herpetology Parent/Teacher Snakes
Captivity Education Humor Pet Trade Societies/Rescues
Chelonians Food/Feeding Invertebrates Plants Using Internet
Clean/Disinfect Green Iguanas & Cyclura Kids Prey Veterinarians
Home About Melissa Kaplan CND Lyme Disease Zoonoses
Help Support This Site   Emergency Preparedness

Brought to you thanks to the good folks at Veterinary Information Network, Inc.

© 1994-2014 Melissa Kaplan or as otherwise noted by other authors of articles on this site