I’m laying on the daybed, sweating in the high humidity, sheltered from both the intermittent downpours of rain and hot bursts of sun, writing on my trusty little super-duper-battery-powered laptop. Below me is a rather stressed out and very large iguana. While Roberto and I were playing dominos about ten meters away, she decided that she wanted to come into our dry home and dig a hole to lay her eggs.
Roberto returned to the casita first and called to me to come slowly so that I could see her. She was caught red-handed in the middle of the dirt floor – and wouldn’t move, not caring if I had run or crawled towards her. We doubt it’s a good idea that she lays her eggs in our house, considering that she could lay about 30 eggs and they take about a month to hatch. That’s a long time to co-exist with a very large iguana, anticipating the arrival of up to thirty more of them! We saw the marks under the table where she started digging the hole before we showed up. And now she really doesn’t want to leave.
After I took a couple of photos, Roberto tried “to run her” by tossing things at her, but all she did was furiously whip her meter-long tail about. It reminded me of the devil-stick playing that we watched in Bocas at Carnaval in February – though this wasn’t being done for entertainment and Ms Iguana was quite serious. Roberto took a stick and rope and caught her, hoping to take her across the river, but she twisted and turned and struggled and got free – and still didn’t leave. Instead she ran under the daybed and there she has stayed for the last hour or so. Neither of us wants to hurt her, we just don’t think it’s a good idea for her to lay – excuse me, she has just moved out from under the daybed into the middle of the room….
So she made her move and after a couple of serious tail-lashings, perhaps realizing that we were as serious about evicting her as she was about staying, she scurried to the river edge and dove down into the water. She is now resting on the pebbly shore, no doubt wondering what to do next. She must really like the idea of our dry dirt floor for her egg hole. I’m afraid that if we leave to go to town, she’ll have taken up permanent residence here before we get back. That would be one big iguana problem. How could we possibly throw out a mother nesting on up to thirty little ones? She must trust us, appreciating that we have no desire to hurt or kill her, unlike many who would happily take her for her tasty meat.
I remember being on the other coast of Costa Rica many years ago and going iguana hunting with some local men. I didn’t fully understand what was going to happen, and went along to take pictures, not actually participate in the hunting. The men ran an iguana up a tree and then surrounded it, sticks in hand – I hate to think what the death scene would look like. They proceeded to throw stones at the poor thing until it felt sufficiently harassed and decided to leap from the tree. I’ll never think an iguana isn’t smart, as that scared creature took a look around before jumping and saw the weak point in the encroaching stick-wielding gang, and jumped directly my way and ran like the wind past me, its tail brushing my ankle. Of course, I also jumped and yelled, “Go, go, go…”, while the men looked on with a mixture of amusement and disgust as their meal disappeared. I was never asked to go iguana hunting again.
I’m not sure what species our mama iguana is – she isn’t at all green, more a dark reddish-golden color with a speckled head and a large beard, with red-tipped spines running along her back and a very long striped tail, although I suppose she could just be a Green Iguana wearing a different shade of camouflage (except for her girth, she blends quite nicely with the dirt floor).
Life in the jungle. Now the howlers are all talking in the trees, moaning and groaning about the poor iguana. They’re moving in closer, leaping from low branch to low branch, perhaps also drawn to the comfort of our little dry rancho as another aguacero starts to flow from the sky. There is a sloth in a small tree behind us, lazily chewing on leaves with one eye regarding the scene. The smaller reptiles who regularly live with us – the Central American Whiptail, the Emerald Basilisk, the Four-striped Whiptail and the Yellow-headed Gecko – are sitting on their perches, keeping an eye on this big mother of a dragon, perhaps making bets between them on who will win the struggle. But for now, the party is over, and once again, man thinks he has won…