Take a stroll with iguanas: All about Chennai Snake Park’s latest space

Iguanas at the Chennai Snake Park   | Photo Credit: R_RAVINDRAN

The American green iguana bobs its head as it crawls on the branch of a small tree. A little worrying for the group assembled in front of it, because head bobbing is usually an indication of the animal being upset or aggressive.

Nevertheless, one of them offers a leaf of spinach to the animal, which it gleefully accepts. Within minutes, the bobbing stops, and the iguana ambles into a small water pool to say hello to its neighbour, a star tortoise.

All this action is playing out at the recently-inaugurated Walk Through Iguana Garden at Chennai Snake Park, Guindy. The park, which usually draws crowds of 4.5 lakh visitors annually, reopened two weeks ago, after eight months of closure due to the pandemic. Since then, it has seen a steady stream of visitors; about 80 people visited the iguana section last Sunday.

Watch | Chennai Snake Park’s new walk-through garden houses iguanas

One of its recent key attractions is the special iguana garden — visitors can stroll through it and admire the five adult iguanas from close proximity. If they are lucky, they also get to feed greens to the herbivorous species of lizards, usually found in the wild in Central and South America.

The idea was conceptualised by S Paulraj, chairman, Chennai Snake Park Trust, after he visited a few European zoos. “Children there are not only made aware of the importance that animals play in our ecosystem but also taught to shower love. We wanted to do something similar here,” he says.

Visitors at the walk-through garden

Visitors at the walk-through garden   | Photo Credit: R_RAVINDRAN

While that was not obviously possible with their core possessions — pythons and snakes — Paulraj and team wondered if they could implement it with the iguanas, which have been in the Park since 2017. “They are lovable, attractive pets and generally do not cause harm,” he says.

So, during the months they were closed, the team made the garden a reality. Today, five three-year-old iguanas rub shoulders with star tortoises in a simulated environment, complete with rocks, boulders and some water pools. Visitors, at close quarters, can observe features like the iguana’s ‘third eye’ on the head that helps it detect light and movement. “For reasons of safety, we let in only limited numbers of visitors at a time, do not let them touch the animals and ensure that they are accompanied by a guide,” says Paulraj.

Iguanas are vegetarian, feeding mostly on greens and fruits. On some days, they dine on a salad comprising an assortment of vegetables including cabbage, carrots and radish. “When visitors feed them, they develop a bond, and their fear of animals can be overcome,” says Paulraj, adding “If the iguanas are in a good mood, you can even take a selfie with them!”

Visit the iguanas on all days except Tuesdays from 9 am to 5.30pm at Chennai Snake Park, Guindy

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2021 10:36:55 AM |

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