The courtship of Iggy: Has the iguana met its mate?

Pausing with pets

January 15, 1992|By Ellen Hawks | Ellen Hawks,Evening Sun Staff

The caption in the photograph accompanying Wednesday's Pausing With Pets story about Iggy the iguana, which Randi Winakur of Randallstown donated to the National Aquarium, misidentified the person with Randi. It was Sandy Barnett, the aquarium herpetologist. The Evening Sun regrets the error.

IGGY MET IGGY for the first time Saturday at the National Aquarium. The two large green iguanas, a male and a female -- both coincidentally named Iggy -- will be rain forest dwellers and hopefully will mate and raise a family.

The female was named by her previous owner, Randi Winakur of Randallstown, who donated the lizard to the Aquarium. Miss Iggy will share the rain forest with three other females and with


Mr. Iggy, who was named by the staff after he arrived 10 years ago when the Aquarium opened.

Jack Cover, curator of the Aquarium's rain forest, says that donations of animals are not generally accepted. ''Many people call to donate pets, particularly iguanas and parrots," he says. "We adopted Iggy because she was a female and is not territorial as the male is. Also, we were not to full capacity in that exhibit but we are now.''

Randi Winakur, 15, received her iguana as a Christmas present five years ago when it was a 1-year-old and about 18 inches long. A small aquarium on her dresser served as a home for this vegetarian pet who grew and grew on lavish attention and menus of romaine lettuce and other vegetables along with dry dog food ground and moistened. Randi first discovered Iggy was a female when at age 2 she laid 30 infertile eggs.

As Iggy grew, a 55-gallon tank was needed and this fall, at nearly four feet in length, Iggy needed more room, according to Randi, a 10th-grader at Randallstown High School. ''I wasn't giving her the attention I had been," she said, "and she needed space.''

Miriam and Harvey Winakur are proud of their daughter's resolution to the problem.

''We knew someone who wanted to buy Iggy but Randi wanted to give her to the Aquarium and we're glad she made the choice,'' says Miriam. ''I was also relieved because we have two Siberian Huskies and I was afraid they might get to [Iggy] and kill her,'' she adds. The family, which includes another daughter, Robyn, also owns an 11-year-old rabbit.

Mr. Iggy is 6 feet long, horned, scaly and dominant. Will he mate with Miss Iggy or the other three female iguanas? Nobody knows for sure. Cover says that so far, Mr. Iggy hasn't mated with the other females. But then again, he hadn't met Miss Iggy, who has just come out of a 60-day quarantine.

''We examine for parasites and any diseases, watch to be sure our diet agrees and let her acclimate to us,'' says Cover, who describes Mr. Iggy as an old man and isn't sure of his mating abilities.

''He does blossom in the mating season, which is generally in the winter, by turning a brilliant orange as male iguanas do. His courting behavior is very obvious. He uses the large flap of skin under his neck called the dewlap and will flop it up and down by bobbing his head up and down,'' says Cover.

Many species besides iguanas live in the rain forest exhibit. The iguanas have their own territory there, however. Other species, explains Cover, include about 15 species of birds, two species of lizards, the green iguana like Iggy and the green basilisk lizard which is smaller. There are also five turtle species and one species of mammal which includes a female and male sloth.

Cover advises prospective exotic pet buyers to give consideration to many factors before making any decisions, ''such as the size to which it will grow. Also the birds, particularly parrots, can be beautiful but noisy, and some people become very annoyed by the noise.''

Randi Winakur says she's not the kind of person to ever be without a pet, but Iggy will probably be her last exotic one. ''She was a very interesting pet," she says. "Yet, I never felt Iggy recognized me. Maybe, it was because she lived in my room and took me for granted.''

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