Interlude with a Leguaan

A magnificent leguaan under a Shepherd’s tree.
A few years ago we were driving around Chris Hobson’s farm Roodeberg, south of Graaff-Reinet. Suddenly he screeched to a halt to show us a leguaan under a tree, all pale yellow and black.

First it lay inert, playing dead.

His abdomen was striped, his legs party-dress spotted, and he was lying completely still, playing dead.

We stood around taking pictures, chatting. Eventually the leguaan could take this unforgivable rudeness no longer. He raised himself up slowly on his chassis, a bit like a Citroen, and flickered his blue-ish tongue to smell us.

Still rising on his legs, he widened himself by inhaling air. Now at his maximum size and most scary, he hissed ominously like a kettle boiling dry and cocked his tail to one side. Chris Hobson approached him slowly. Suddenly the leguaan lashed his heavy tail like a whip.

“I had a dog that had its foot broken by a leguaan’s tail. But you can see they can’t just lash about with it. They need to first pull it back into position and ‘cock’ it.”

Its long blue-ish tongue flickered out, scenting us.

Eventually we left the poor reptile alone. All it wanted was to rest quiet under a Shepherd’s Tree, but you could see it would take all afternoon to cool its temper down.

On Wikipedia later on I learnt that leguaans – better known as monitor lizards – will eat anything they can overpower and are some of the most intelligent of reptiles. They sometimes use teamwork to steal eggs. In zoos they clearly recognise their keepers, have quite distinct personalities and can count up to six. Who knew?


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