Insight & Analysis

Forecast: cloudy with a chance of… iguanas?

Published: Jan 2020

It’s not raining water, or hail. It’s not even raining men. No, the National Weather Service Miami put out a warning recently in South Florida for people to keep an eye out for falling iguanas.

Green iguana on branch

Yes, you read that correctly. The temperature in Florida is dropping, and with it, so are iguanas from trees. The cold-blooded animals slow down or become immobile when the weather drops below about 4°C – called entering a state of torpor.

It is an involuntary response to protect themselves from cold temperatures. They may look deceased, but it’s just their body’s natural response. Though, prolonged exposure can lead to death, and some Floridians are recognising the benefit.

Green iguanas are an invasive species in the southern US, and have caused millions of dollars of damage when burrowing into infrastructures – particularly when nesting. In fact, the wildlife officials in the State of Florida tells homeowners to kill green iguanas “whenever possible”. This kind of natural population control is encouraged – even by the staunchest of animal conservationists.

According to the Miami Herald, the influx of readily available iguanas actually caused a rise in the advertisements of iguana meat on Facebook marketplace – dubbed “chicken of the trees” or “bamboo chicken”. Eating iguana seems strange to you? Not to worry, they’re actually a common food in their native Central and South America and parts of the Caribbean, where they are actively hunted, and are apparently an “economical source of protein”.

So what do you do if you come across an iguana in the street?

Once they thaw out, they may be disoriented and attack you. Or, like a man in Key Biscayne, Florida, originally from Central America, you may end up overrun.

Coming from a country where iguanas are a delicacy, this gentleman thought he’d hit the jackpot coming across so many cold, unmoving and grey iguanas, and started collecting them and putting them in his car.

As the car warmed up however, so did the iguanas. The havoc that ensued actually caused an accident as the gentleman was driving along.

So, if you find an iguana, leave it. Otherwise, watch where you’re walking and keep your eyes peeled – iguanas can be pretty heavy, especially when landing on your head.

It shouldn’t be a problem for too long though, Florida has already begun to warm up.

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