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Free Roaming and Napoleon Now

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Free Roaming ...

someday, I'm gonna getcha, gonna find ya, gonna getcha getcha getcha ...
     On New Year's day (January 1st, 1997) Napoleon moved from his small tank to our bedroom proper. Free Roaming is now the only acceptable way to live in his opinion!

     His bedroom home consists of a bookshelf that he spends 75% of his time on. There are two human heating pads set on low under a Mexican style blanket, two basking lights, a 2 foot UVB fluorescent and a 3 foot UVB fluorescent tube 10 inches over his favourite basking areas.

     Napoleon has access to his bookshelf via a ficus tree placed directly in front of the book shelf, and some cork bark against the bookshelf that he can climb as well.

June 97 posing on his cork bark
      I have several branches, each about as wide in diameter as his body along the back of the bookshelf, extending out toward the bedroom window. He can climb these branches and some strategically placed cork bark, and get onto a bureau near the window. There is a heating pad on the bureau to warm him if he cares to bask on it. He spends time sitting in the window. Sometimes I will open the window when the weather is nice (spring to early fall) and let him sit in the screened window sill, and get some natural sunlight. If you do this please be sure the screen is made of steel and that it is quite sturdy. Iguana's can claw their way or jump through flimsy screens, and they can also push them out of their holdings too!

     I also have a UVB fluorescent over the bureau/window area for times when he can't bask in natural sunlight.

     We have a portable electric heater on the floor (one that shuts off automatically if tipped or if it gets too hot!) and we can heat his room to an appropriate temperature in the winter time if we feel it's getting too cool for him. We also have a cool mist humidifier- one that does not produce hot steam, that we leave running for several hours each day to increase the humidity in the room.

you think i'm ig-noring you - I can see 'ya!       Even though he free roams he has several basking areas (with UVB fluorescent) that are kept at appropriate temperatures for him. We do try to keep the ambient temperature of the room at about 80 F (26.6 C)during the day, and no less than 75 F at night (23.8 C). We always make sure that he is on his heating pad at night- in the winter anyway. The actual areas that he spends the most time in reach temperatures between 80 F and 89 F (26.6 - 31.6 C), with basking areas reaching 95 F (34.9 C) - during the day.

     He can roam the bedroom freely but spends the majority of his time on the bookshelf or bureau. I keep his food dish and water dish on the book shelf.

Where is that handsome male iguana that lives in the mirror? I'm going to get him!      The bureau has mirrors on it, and so does our wardrobe so sometime during the day he will climb down onto the floor and admire the other iguana in the mirror. During breeding season and when he's feeling aggressive he will try to get at the other iguana in the mirror- probably believing that the other ig is a rival male! He will bang into the mirror sideways, or with his snout (he doesn't do this often and has no snout damage!), open his mouth and arch his back at the reflection and prowl back and forth for an hour or so before giving up on the other iguana.

     Iguana's don't make any sound but Napoleon still manages to wake us up on the weekend or on days when we are able to sleep in! His lights are on timers so even if we are sleeping he still gets his proper photoperiod and for the most part we are used to his lights going on on those rare days when we are able to sleep in ...

Hey! You're home! I'm so glad to see you! See I'm smiling!       ... but when we are home and he can see us he starts bobbing at us from the bookshelf as we sleep. Bob bob bob bobobobobobobobobobob bobobob bobobobobob bob bob BOB ... do you know how irritating the sound of a dewlap softly hitting a blanket on a bookshelf can be when done repeatedly?

     Or he start pacing back and forth (Where's my food!!!!!!) along the bookshelf and bureau, thumbing his feet, thwacking his tail .... climbing the branches, tree and cork bark making a racket ... there is nothing graceful about a climbing ig ... 'specially when it's really trying to get your attention! :)

     Or he'll climb down onto the floor and start preening in front of the mirror. Crash ... shuffle shuffle, bob bob bob bob, shuffle shuffle, whip crash bob bob bob..... Pay attention to me, I say!

     Or he'll climb onto a chair in the bedroom (don't ask me how!) climb onto my husbands dresser, and the next thing we know we have Napoleon in bed with us! Get up Mom and Dad- NOW! Lick lick bob bob bob. :)

     Napoleon could easily jump from the bookshelf onto the bed- but he hasn't yet! He's not much of a jumper. Well, lately he has been trying to jump from the bed to his bookshelf- but that's an upward jump and gravity tends to get in the way! He usually ends up on the floor! He only really leaps from object to object at my in-laws or my parents houses. Probably trying to irritate his grandparents! LOL

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... And Napoleon Now!

Napoleon says he doesn't want to remember when he looked this bad.      So ... Napoleon came to us as a sickly 300 gram iguana with tough, abscessed skin, broken ear drums, mites, very bad tail and toe abscess', curved back and curved toes, dehydrated and terribly weak and pathetic looking ... 8 svl, 30 stl but with plugged femoral pores, a definite sign that he was male and that he was sexually mature, meaning he was no less than three years old yet the size of a one year old iguana! :(

oh was I ever pathetic.       And then within a month of his arrival he lost 4" of tail bringing him down to 26" stl ...

     And Now you ask???? Well, just a bit more than three years after his initial arrival, he's a whopping 9.2 pounds, 18" svl, and 58.5" stl! He's grown a total of 32.5 inches and gained over 8 pounds in the 37 months that we have had him ... and there is no sign of his growth stopping any time soon! Wow! I really didn't believe when we got him that he would grow very much at all. I thought he was permanently stunted. I wasn't even sure he would live for that matter! All the hard work paid off and I full expect him to reach a minimum of 5.5 to 6 feet in length.

     When we first rescued him he was a sickly yellow colour and his skin was thick, hard as a rock, scabbed and abscessed. With daily soaks his skin softened and healed and he began his first shed about 3 weeks after his arrival. Within a month of his arrival Napoleon was losing that yellowish sickly look but was still a dark olive green colour. Better but not anywhere near healthy if his colour was any indication. By December of '96 he had some areas of pale mint green mixed in with the olive green areas ... getting there ... and with free roaming and another month most of his body was pale green with dark black stripes. He was finally there! He was gorgeous!

     His scabbed areas had fallen off, leaving behind pink flesh ... which eventually rescaled itself but in odd star shaped patterns. You can definitely see where every large scab once was, but they do blend in and they take on whatever colour he happens to be.

     By February '97 he started turning orange. I thought "oh no, here it is, his first breeding season with us!" but his temperament stayed pretty much the same. He's a fairly cuddly handlable iguana, who loves to be rocked and petted on his dewlap, and hand fed too. He has been through many breeding seasons with us now - at least two for each year that we've had him. Luckily he is not tooooooooo aggressive. Just bobs a lot and occasionally lunges at me when he is in his breeding season ... but I think he knows his limits. However I am careful to never let my guard down too much when he is in breeding season just in case he really does get a good bite in!

oh ya baby! I'm big, I'm orange, and I'm all yours!       He stayed orange ... forever! It's now October 1999 and he's bright orange. Not garish neon safety orange, a very nice yellowish orange that complements his black stripes and hi-lights the mint green in his tail and the sides of his belly. I call him my tangerine iguana. I also call him the "Great Pumpkin". Most "normal" green iguanas will get some orange colour during their breeding season and then revert back to a shade of green when breeding season is over. Not Napoleon! When he goes into breeding season he looks the same as he always does! Remember he's been orange for us for 31 months now! I wouldn't be able to tell just from his colour alone if he were in breeding season, I have had to learn to read his body language and moods in order to tell when he's getting close to his season or when he's actually in his breeding season. Since he's been orange for 31 months I'm beginning to expect that he will stay orange always!

     You might wonder why we named him Napoleon? No it's not because of his "greater than thou" attitude, It's not because he's a dictator like ruler of his territory either (well he is treated like a KING around here) ... It's because of a song by Tom Cochrane (Canadian Musician) called "Napoleon Sheds his Skin".

     Napoleon started shedding his thick skin three weeks after he got here and he hasn't stopped!!!!!!!!!!! Something is always shedding. He's growing! I swear he does a complete shed every two weeks! This is the kind of growth rate seen in younger igs ... not supposed adults! but I guess he's still catching up.

     So I was sitting there one day in the bathroom, (maybe November '96 with the still unnamed iguana) with Napoleon on my lap right after his bath. I was towelling him dry and helping him shed some of his skin when the song " Napoleon Sheds His Skin" by Tom Cochrane started playing on the radio. It caught my attention. Particularly the chorus:

  • "Napoleon sheds his skin
  • In the summer when the sun is high
  • He never knew when to
  • quit
  • When to stop ...
  • Or when to say die

     Okay ... yeah at first I just thought of the words as he doesn't know when to quit shedding! But then I thought about it some more and realized how grave Napoleon's situation was when he came to us, and how much of a survivor he must be to have pulled through, and I realized he really doesn't know when to quit, when to stop or when to say die. We'd had him with us for about two months at that point and he'd made remarkable progress up to that point. I was so proud of him and I felt the song described him to a T so I named him Napoleon then and there and vowed he would get nothing but the best of care, and attention, sun in the summer and everything he could ever need. Over three years later, I'm still keeping that vow. :)

     We thought we were dedicated water dragon keepers, but our iguana has surprised us with his intelligence, curiosity and personality. Iguana's take quite a bit of special care- especially if you rescue one as we did, but if you are willing to put some hard work and a lot of time into caring for an iguana it's more than worthwhile.

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