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Tale of the Lizard by Zyra
This is a curious story of cause and effect, involving an iguana. Let's set the scene first: It was at Las Delicias, which is a small community with a good sized swimming pool in Panama. Wildlife of significant size seldom ventures onto the property, so I was especially surprised to see a 3ft (1m) green iguana by the poolside. I moved closer to get a better shot with the camera, and then suddenly events started to unfold. The green iguana has a remarkable set of defensive modes, and these were about to be demonstrated. For a start, it looks like a scary beast, perhaps a bit dragon-like, and this would surely put off various creatures from approaching it. I considered it was worth the risk to get a better photo, and I also know that in tropical places such as Panama, it is the small creatures that are the most dangerous, things like spiders, snakes, scorpions, and tiny poisonous frogs. With it never freezing, there's no cold weather to kill of the tropical critters that would die in a more temperate climate. However, as I approached the lizard, it suddenly put into effect a defensive action which surprised me. It decided to flee by jumping into the water. Apparently, according to various sources I read-up later, this is typical of the iguana, that it jumps into water to escape. Well, OK, except, surely it will need to come up to breathe? It's a reptile, not an amphibian. However, it was clear it could hold its breath longer than I could hold mine, and I watched it remaining apparently quite calmly resting at the bottom of the swimming pool. This was another defensive feature of the creature. It could hold its breath for a long time.
However, it just didn't seem right to leave it in there, as sooner or later it would be noticed, and it might put people off going for a swim, and I also considered that if the iguana was still there later, it might be treated as vermin and hunted down. Of course I couldn't be sure, but I know how some people over-react when they see a mouse!
Presumably from the iguana's perspective it felt quite safe at the bottom of the pool, but then again, I would guess that the defensive tactic of jumping into water is based on the idea that the water is murky, cloudy, dirty, and affords some visual cover, whereas at Las Delicias the crystal clear swimming pool water gave the lizard no possibility of hiding.
Initially I didn't fancy going in and facing the reptile up front, because as you can see from the pictures, it's got quite big claws, and it wouldn't be easy to catch without some trouble. So, I tried to chase it out by appearing over the deep end in the hopes it would climb up the steps at the shallow end. After a few lengths of chasing it became apparent this was not going to be effective. The iguana regarded water as an effective refuge, and emerging from the water was not something it felt would be a good idea in the cause of its self-preservation.
After some chasing about at the poolside, it was clear that it was not going to leave the pool without some radical intervention, so I fetched a bath towel and I went into the swimming pool to catch the iguana! When tackling a beast that's bigger than a rat and longer than a cat, it's best to go prepared. I figured on using the towel as a net to catch the iguana, and also as a shield to stop the iguana from injuring me. So, after a brief mock "toro! toro!" gesture with the towel, I was venturing into the swimming pool in pursuit of the iguana. An especially good move with regard to this, was passing the camera to my neighbour, who then took pictures of the whole event!
I had announced the situation by stating in Spanish that there was a lizard in the swimming pool, "lagartija en piscina", and sure enough on a translation site you'll see the Spanish word for lizard is typically revealed to be "lagartija", but apparently this often tends to refer to something larger, such as crocodile / cocodrilo, alligator, etc. Also, it is true that "piscina" is the correct word for swimming pool, and it doesn't mean fishpond as might have been originally suspected.
Iguana is something not especially dangerous, and I considered the chasing of it with a towel to be similar to trying to catch a stray cat, except that this action was taking place underwater! Plus, it is a wild animal, and they can be less than friendly, even when they are approached by a well-meaning person intent on rescuing them, helping them, or otherwise acting in non-predatorial role. Even small wild creatures can do damage in a less-than-grateful way, as per how to catch a bird in a net curtain. Vets are familiar with this type of problem, whereas doctors seldom get bitten by their patients!
Through the clear water I could see the reptile hiding down there in the corner right at the bottom of the deep end, and I considered how best to approach it. It didn't look like it was going to move, so I prepared for the fact I was going to have to dive down and be completely submerged in order to face it, and it was obvious that it could hold its breath longer than I could hold mine. As I approached the corner of the deep end and went down to attempt an underwater grabbing of the lizard, even though it's not a very deep deep-end, it was nevertheless a bit disconcerting having to approach a creature underwater. Plus, there's the usual thing that even in clear water, vision underwater is blurred because of the curvature of the eyes. Still, I was determined to get that towel round the iguana and I went down there to get it.
In case you're wondering about the "unorthodox swimwear", yes, I generally go swimming with my clothes on. This is eccentric but there aren't usually any problems with it, and besides, it's not as if I'm going to "catch my death of cold" in a tropical environment. In fact, the swimming pool temperature always seemed to be a comfortable variant of the air temperature, as it averaged out the day and night temperatures.
Meanwhile, back at the iguana-catching, the target did not remain static, and as soon as I approached it, it was off again, in the direction of the shallow end, and my following it could not really be described as "hot pursuit" as the iguana clearly had the advantage of speed, as well as breath-holding. Still, I followed it. Thinking about this, it's not everyone who would go chasing an iguana underwater, is it?
I already knew from things I'd read before, that one of the defensive modes of some types of lizard is that the creature can lose its tail, leaving the predator with just the tail, while the lizard runs away and lives to fight another day, and after a while it grows a complete new tail. I had no intention of allowing this iguana to demonstrate that method of defence, and I could see the tail was very long almost as if it was designed to be caught by it. As the iguana passed the centre line of the pool where the floor is adorned with decorative tiles depicting dolphins, I was especially careful not to tread on the tail of the iguana. Opportunist vultures which you sometimes see circling overhead might be fooled by such a trick, but I knew better.
Eventually the iguana ended up at the shallow end of the pool, and I was hoping it would go up the steps and get away, but it did not. Instead, rather than climbing up the bottom step as I expected, it tried to hide in the corner right at the bottom of the step. Hardly ideal, but that's what the instincts of the reptile considered the right thing to do. Presumably the programming says something like "When in shallow water being pursued by a predator, don't surface!". This was my moment to deploy the towel, and I grabbed both ends of the towel and made a quick dive down to engulf the iguana.
This worked, and I had the animal wrapped up in the towel, and it was still complete with the tail. I checked to make sure I'd got it, and then, with a complete iguana in a towel, I carefully lifted it from the pool and carried it up the steps.
As I'd got it completely wrapped in a towel, it was not able to bite me or scratch me with those claws, so you might think it had used its last defensive mode. However, there was a further trick which it had in reserve. This was only apparent when the towel was carefully opened up on the lawn.
What appeared to be in there was a dead lizard. Except, remember, it was alive and kicking moments earlier on, so it clearly hadn't drowned, and there wasn't anything particularly lethal about the towel. So, what was going on?. "Es muerte!" (it's dead), came the cry from the neighbour. However I considered this unlikely, and I could see the lizard was twitching. This was yet another defence mode of the iguana; to play possum. By pretending to be dead, it would make some predators lose interest. I would guess that earlier, as soon as the towel was wrapped around the iguana it was in the dark, and the it must have assumed it was finished, so it pretended to be dead.
However, I wasn't chasing the iguana to be predatory upon it, and instead I was just trying to get it safely out of the pool. So, as soon as it was unwrapped, it twitched a bit, and then made a remarkable miracle recovery! Quick as a flash, it ran off, in a random direction, narrowly missing the neighbour's feet. There was barely enough time to get a final shot of the iguana darting down a storm drain, never to be seen again. It probably thought it had had a lucky escape!
So, there you have it, the tale of an iguana and its variety of modes of defence. Those with the better defences have a survival advantage, so as time goes on, more of those survive to produce more animals of that type. I have heard that in the case of the iguana, defence is an important part of life, as they are considered edible by the locals, who regard them as if they were a wild form of free range chicken. Mmm, delicious! I don't doubt they are tasty, but I was more keen to see this one run away rather than to see it barbecued.
At the time of writing the story, there were no swimming pool affiliate programs (and there were no reptile affiliate programs either). However, now, we have Pool Center and Aqua Superstore on here! And in the UK, Aspects Pools and Spas
Also, waterproof smearproof make-up is available from Lip Ink!
Underwater MP3 music is available from H2O Audio!
Another story told in pictures can be seen about the Bird's Nest
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