One of the largest of all the iguanas, rhinoceros iguanas can reach four feet in length. Their name is attributed to the three horn-like outgrowths on the end of their nose. They are gray or olive green in color, with dark cross bands, which blends in with the rocks of their natural habitat. As cold-blooded reptiles, these iguanas must warm up under the sun before being active during the day (diurnal.) Iguanas of the cyclura genus are found on many Caribbean islands, but the rhinoceros iguana is found only in the islands of Haiti and the Dominican republic.
Rhinoceros iguanas eat leaves, flowers and fruit. They have been observed to eat insects, land crabs, eggs. They are normally ground dwelling lizard, but they will climb trees at times to eat leaves and fruits.
They are primarily found near coastlines of Hispaniola in Haiti. However, due to due human civilization, many were forced to relocate inland. Majority of the populations live in the southern portions of the Dominican Republic. Smaller populations live in neighboring Haiti. They are protected and a threatened species in the Dominican Republic. In Haiti, where they are sometimes hunted for food or local trade.
Habitat destruction and hunting for food and trade constitutes the largest threat to the rhinoceros iguana.
Caring for Rhino Iguanas as Pets
A rhino iguana may require a standard 30 – 50 gallon tank. But as it grows, a custom-built cage may be necessary. The size of the cage will depend on the size of the iguana. To compute for the ideal size for a particular iguana: cage length is one and one half of the lizard length; width is two thirds of the lizard length; height may be equal to the lizard length. A higher cage though may be preferred as iguanas love to climb and stay up. Branches may be set-up inside the cage for their climbing necessities. Choose branches that will match the size your iguana.
Rhino iguanas need to heat their bodies to properly digest food and to help them fight diseases. A thermometer may be used to monitor the temperature in any enclosed area. Ideal temperature should reach around 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Additional heat may be supplied by a spotlight, heat tape or any under-tank heaters. Hot rocks are not recommended for they can damage your iguana’s skin and may even cause serious burns.
Lighting is a must for iguanas. Full-spectrum bulbs help produce Vitamin D3 helping iguanas in their calcium absorption. However, recent studies show that no artificial lighting can ever duplicate the benefits derived from natural sunlight. It is therefore recommended that iguanas be exposed to natural sunlight on a regular basis. Natural sunlight coupled with good diet is the cheaper way to raise rhino iguana. Be wary though not to expose the iguana to sunlight while inside the aquarium as the temperature rise inside may be lethal.
Proper feeding must always be a major consideration in handling your rhino iguanas. Always remember that the health and well-being of your pet iguana will largely depend on the kind of food that you give them. Iguanas require a diet rich in Vitamin D3, calcium and phosphorus. Good source for these are greens such as mustard greens, dandelion greens and turnip greens. Iguanas are by nature, herbivores. They are plant eaters. Dog food, cat food and human food should be avoided. These are not good for the iguanas and can result to kidney failure at their young age. Broccoli, cauliflower, sprouts and cabbages can be given but in small amounts. These vegetables can cause thyroid problem if frequently given. Spinach is also not good for them, it binds calcium. Other vegetables such as zucchini and squash, and other fruits, like raspberries, blackberries and bananas can be added to their diet.
While it is important to monitor the temperature surrounding of the rhino iguana, it is equally important to check on the humidity. They need water and humidity. Regular misting or a humidifier will help maintain humidity to proper level. Ideally, enclosures should maintain humidity level of about 95 – 100 percent. A gauge which monitors both temperature and humidity can help address this monitoring.