Godzilla: The story of the world’s grumpiest iguana

A typical morning bringing Godzilla out for his daily bath.
A typical morning bringing Godzilla out for his daily bath.

A typical morning bringing Godzilla out for his daily bath.

Many of you have never heard of Godzilla. Matter-of-fact only my family, close friends, and animal assistants have had the pleasure of actually meeting him. I don’t know if they would even classify it as a pleasure, or more or less of a terrifying reminder of why they are happy Godzilla isn’t theirs. He charges, tries to whip his tail, sometimes bites, hates my sister and another animal assistant whom will remain anonymous, almost gave my grandma a heart attack, and yet he is still one of my favorite animals I take care of.  I’m finally thrilled to be able to share his story…

I rescued Godzilla in December of 2010. Though I’m no stranger to iguana rescue, his story is an interesting one. I received a letter one day in the mail regarding his situation. It struck me as a little odd; many people these days use e-mail or social media as a means of communication regarding rescue and rehab. It’s simply faster and much more efficient. I can sum up the letter in a few sentences. I have a very tame iguana. It has free roam of my apartment. I can no longer care for him. I’ve been feeding him strawberries.

Scooter in his dressing room at PIX News in NYC.

Scooter in his dressing room at PIX News in NYC.

At the time I had no interest in taking in another iguana; Scooter had been my “right-hand man” for so long. On top of that, iguanas are incredibly territorial. They could never be housed together and to reduce stress would never be able to see each other. For some reason though I felt like this situation was different…

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Godzilla in 2010 when he arrived.

I’ve always gone with my intuition, and so I decided to give Godzilla a better home. When he first arrived he was extremely lethargic and very skinny. He didn’t have a choice; he had been kept on a windowsill without the proper heat sources and was not being fed the nutritious diet iguanas require. He accepted his new diet almost instantly and began to flourish.

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Puffing up and fully extending the dewlap is great way to intimidate other iguanas and predators.

Fast forward four years and you have a very healthy, very confident Green Iguana!

Godzilla’s enclosure on the upper left hand side.

We specifically designed our iguana exhibits to be at the highest part in the building. Iguanas naturally live in trees and feel most secure when they are at the highest vantage point looking down upon the action below.

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So you can imagine Godzilla feels like the king of the castle!

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What most people don’t realize is how incredibly intelligent iguanas really are. Godzilla looks at me and anyone else who enters the building as another iguana. He furiously bobs his head up and down, telling all of us that this is his territory and not to mess with it! In reality though, this is exactly how 99.9% of male iguanas behave. It’s their natural instinct. That’s why many iguanas that are purchased at pet stores as tiny babies end up being dumped off once they reach maturity.

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Godzilla basking in the sun.

Many people have urged me to find another home for Godzilla. They argue that another animal would be a much better fit for our educational programs. They might have a good point. Yes, finding a good home for Godzilla would free up space and allow us to house another ambassador…Yet I can’t imagine life without him. I think he’s a perfect ambassador for captive iguanas. People can learn and see how they naturally behave, and maybe think twice about buying that cute little baby iguana at the pet store.

***Special note: Iguanas can be very rewarding pets. Just make sure you do you research and understand the time and commitment. And as always, think adoption first. There are thousands of iguanas that need good homes.