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Posted by Wes von Papinešu on April 03, 2002 at 19:59:42:
EDINBURGH EVENING NEWS (UK) 02 April 02 Iguana no dae that (Angie Brown)
Heís normally a strict vegetarian and a perfect companion for the star attractions at Edinburgh Butterfly World.
But then "John" the green iguana suddenly turned nasty and gobbled up an owl butterfly in front of a crowd of shocked school children.
Now the lizard from Central America is being watched by staff and will be removed from the attraction near Lasswade if he becomes a serial offender.
Staff at the centre, which opened 20 years ago, said animals and reptiles can develop bad habits in an unnatural environment.
John has not mated with "girlfriend" Alvera during his five-year stay at the centre - a problem thought to be caused by too many people distracting him.
Despite this, staff said he appeared to be happy living in the enclosure.
Tamsin Job, Edinburgh Butterfly and Insect World manager, said she was very surprised when John ate the owl butterfly, which has a wingspan of 18cm. News photographer Esme Allen just happened to be at the centre to capture the moment. "John doesnít come down to the ground very often and usually sits up near the roof to get the maximum heat.
"But on Saturday, he came down to the log and was eating the banana. One of the owl butterflies was getting aggressive and flapping round his head so he turned round and snapped at the butterfly.
"We allow him to stay in the butterfly enclosure because iguanas donít usually eat anything other than bananas, so we were very surprised by his behaviour."
John held the crumpled, dead butterfly, which is also from Central America, in his mouth before spitting it out because they carry a foul-tasting toxin to deter birds.
Ms Job added that John, a discarded pet, would remain in the flight enclosure unless he started eating butterflies on a regular basis.
"We will be monitoring him now to see if this develops into a bad habit. It is very rare for an iguana to do this so we want to make sure he hasnít done this because he is in an unnatural environment," she said. Ms Job added that staff would now also put out more banana for the lizard, which eats one and two whole pieces a day and more in the summer.
John could live for another ten years and staff said he appeared to be very happy in his tropical glass house home.
A Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals spokeswoman warned that people should be careful around an iguana once it reached adulthood.
"They reach sexual maturity around five years old so they should be monitored for a change in behaviour," she said.
"It may be helpful if John was fed separately and kept away from the butterfliesí food because all animals can be possessive over their food.
"We would also never recommend that anyone buys an iguana as a pet because they need specialist care."
She added that iguanas should be a vibrant green colour like John and not brown.
"Anyone who does have an iguana as a pet needs to know to change their UVA light bulb every six months because, although the light may still go on, it wonít be producing enough UVA and UVB rays, which they require to convert food into calcium to prevent them getting metabolic bone disease."
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