Rock Iguanas

(Cyclura lewisi, cornuta, & nubila)

Pied PArents
 Father of "Gandolf" our Lewisi Blue Rock Iguana (Ty Park's)
 

We've worked with a few Cyclura off and on for decades, mostly the Blue Rocks (C. lewisi), and a few Cuban Rocks (C. nubila), but never really found a pair that we "meshed" with.  The biggest problem I think is that we just didn't keep them long enough.  Most start out very skittish to even aggressive as hatchlings unless you put a lot of time into them from day one. I've always been one to let critters settle in those first few weeks to months before interacting with them and for most species that seems to be the way to go. Not so much for Cyclura.  Luckily, if you spend enough time around them, where they can see you on a daily basis, they get to accept you as "belonging" there. Once they get to be around 2 years old, they mentally seem to "click" and then decide you are "worthy" of being their buddy. The change can literally happen overnight.  From being aggressive Monday, to wanting to be scratched on Tuesday. Our 3 year old Rhino female "Aragog" (named after the bad tempered giant female spider in Harry Potter) is the perfect example. Truly a nightmare critter her 1st year and a half. Very skittish the 1st 6 months or so, then very aggressive the next year after that. I came close to giving up on her several times. Then one day she gave me the "sign" Cyclura use when they want to be scratched. Oddly it is exactly like the sign sharks use when they are giving threat displays, an exaggerated stiffening of the body, arching of the back and tail, and slight raising the head. Except they also usually partly or completely close their eyes. From that day on she has considered me her friend. She insists on a scratch almost very day when I bring her food and ignores her food until after massage time. 

 

General Care

Rock Iguanas are one of the longer lived lizards, with 50+ year lifespans being possible for exceptional individuals. For most, 25 years can be a realistic expectation if you take the time to set up a suitable enclosure and provide reasonable care. Our care and diet is very similar to our Uromastyx (see our care sheet for Uromastyx) but with the following modifications.  The base diet is the same but with added fruit and no dry seeds or grains. We also offer the occasional (once a week) insect or spoonful of wet canned dog food added to the greens for adolescents and breeding females (they grow much better with the added protein but become very aggressive feeders at feeding time if they see protein is coming). Adult males and non-breeding females really don't need the extra protein so a straight vegetarian diet is probably the best way to proceed at that point. We also use a lower ambient temperature relative to the Uros, shooting for the upper 90's, and shoot for a slightly more humid environment. We bed them on coconut husk chunks or Melaleuca mulch (similar to cypress mulch) which we periodically dampen with warm water (every other week for hatchlings, once a month or so for older individuals). While generally not as long as the common Green iguana and much less interested in climbing, these guys tend to be bulkier and are still quite large (5' average). So they will need a suitably sized cage; at least 7' to 8' long, 4' wide, 4' tall pen or dedicated room as adults. Make sure all climbing logs are as wide as their bodies, stay low to the ground and are well secured.  Otherwise keep the pen uncluttered - they like open space.

We use a 12 hour day/night cycle while rearing them and this should be fine their whole lives if kept solely as pets. We do a mild cool down and shorten our day length for winter to help cycle them for breeding but otherwise treat them the same care wise year-round. 

 
Indoor Lewisi Rock Iguana Breeding pen.

 

Cyclura lewisi x 

 

Tiger Bananas  
 "Gandolf" our male Blue Rock as a hatchling 2014 "Eowen" our female Blue Rock as a hatchling 2014

 

 

Tiger Bananas  
 "Gandolf" as a 2 1/2 yr old spring 2017 Eowen as 2 1/2 yr old, spring  2017

 

Blue Rock iguanas are extremely rare in the wild, having dropped to about a dozen individuals or so by the turn of the century.  Dogs, cats and rats brought in by settlers and allowed free range of the island bear the majority of the blame for the extreme decline. They have eaten so many of the eggs and juveniles that almost none have survived long enough to replace breeding adults lost through normal attrition. In an attempt to save them from extinction, a captive breeding project was started with the the last wild individuals along with any pure bred individuals in the hands of private breeders at the time. While the program has been very successful, DNA testing before release of the first offspring back into the wild revealed that a female or two of the closely related species, the Cayman Island Rock Iguana, had inadvertently been included in the original breeding pool. These mixed blood individuals were culled from the group, eventually ending up back into private breeding programs intended solely for the pet trade. Today C. lewisi is listed as a Critically Endangered, CITIES 1 protected species. Only those individuals produced from private  breeders are legal to posses and sell in the U.S. and are generally designated as "C. lewisis x"  to denote they are derived from the original cross-bred offspring. The better breeders have paired the bluest offspring from these animals each generation to sire the next generation. Thus now we have some that rival the original pure species for depth of color. Note that how much blue is shown at any given time, or how intense the shade, is a factor of how recently they have shed (newer skin is brighter, older is browner) and by their emotional state (excited = bluer), and body temperature (cooler = browner/greyer on average).  

Temperament wise, Blue Rocks are one of the best of the readily available Rock Iguanas. They are often skittish as hatchlings and juveniles but most calm down as 2 year olds and become dog tame. While not fond of being picked up, they love to crawl onto your lap for long head and body rubs.  

 

  Cyclura cornuta 

Norberts 1st breeding   1st hatch
Ty Park's Blue Rhino line, the founding stock for our pair Ty Park's  Blue Rhino line

 

 The Rhinoceros Rock iguana (C. cornuta), or more commonly called simply the Rhino Iguana, is native to Hispanola Island (home of Haiti and the Dominican Republic). They are probably one of the better known Rock iguanas and have been in herpetoculture a long time. While not rare in the wild, their range is continually shrinking and it seems just a matter of time before the species is in trouble there. They are still hunted for food in some parts of the island and have the same issues with feral cats, rats and dogs as do most island reptiles.

Adult size is comparable with Lewisi, but with a noticeably  bulkier overall look, averaging 10 to 20 pounds. Their look is quite unique, with a distinct, if short, upper nasal horn with two, sometimes more, smaller horns paired anterior to it, forming a triangular pattern. Some domestic lines, called "Multihorns" add extra rows of these side horns as well as another large nasal horn above or beside the 1st. The size and number of these is highly variable but seems to be a genetic trait subject to selection pressure. They also develope enlarged fat pads on the rear top of the head, adding a helmeted look. Males express these traits to a stronger degree but both sexes have this striking look. They hatch with distinct wide grey banding on a lighter grey background. As they mature the bands normally fade away, leaving the adults a uniform medium to dark grey. Another morph in captivity (and supposedly a sub population in the wild at one time or another) is a line that adds distinct blue pigments to the dorsal crest and even to the body. Though not as intense as in the better Blue Rocks, they can be quite striking. 

 "Haggard male Rhino Rock Iguana at 4 months old

 

 
 Aragog's nose plate starting to show some horn growth Aragog female Rhino at 1 1/2 years old.

 

Cyclura nubila  


Cuban Rock Iguanas -Ty Parks High Contrast Line.

 

Cuban Rock Iguanas (C. nubila) probably just beat out the Rhino for the most common Rock iguana in herpetoculture. Individuals originating from Cuba proper are regulated by U.S. Fish & Wildlife and require a CBW permit to move across state lines. However the same does not apply to those originating from a separate population was that was established on Isla Magueyes off Puerto Rico in the mid 60's. Almost all Cuban Rocks in the private sector are from this feral group. Cubans are in between the Lewisi and Rhinos in that they often have the size of the Rhinos but mirror the Lewisi in having a somewhat sleeker, less blocky look to them. Their pattern is along the lines of the Lewisi as well but replace the blues with dark oranges and varies shades of tan and brown. All in all the higher contrast individuals can be very striking.  Personality wise, most people consider these to generally be the easiest to tame and friendliest of the Rock iguanas. 

  We'll add top-entry nest boxes in late February and see if we can get a couple pairs to do the deed. We don't take deposits but fill "Wanted" lists on a first come, first served basis. 


 
Cuban Rock Iguana- "Ricky" 3 month old male Cuban Rock Iguana- "Lucy" 2 month old female

 

 

 

 
Outoor Rock Iguana Breeding pen - under construction.

At this point we only have few individuals of each of these species. One pair of Blue Rocks (C. lewisi x); one pair of Rhinoceros Rock Iguanas, (C. coronata);  and one pair of the Puerto Rican origin Cuban Rock Iguanas. Only our Blue Rocks are mature enough to breed and in fact we got our 1st clutch (albeit infertile), summer 2017.  Our Rhino female is likely old enough this coming summer but her prospective mate is only 6 months old.  Likewise our Cuban pair are only hatchlings so are at least a year and a half or two away from breeding at the earliest.  We have the pair of Lewisi setup in an indoor breeding pen and have a much larger outdoor pen in  the works (see above photo).  Once the Cubans reach maturity, we'll also convert the largest outdoor tortoise pen that adjoins the main reptile building over for their use.  We'll add an egg-laying area to the Lewisi pen in late February then cross our fingers  that we'll get a fertile clutch this year.  We don't take deposits but fill "Wanted" lists on a first come, first served basis once we're successful.

 

       

Email: douglasdix@deerfernfarms.com

Copyright 1992-2018 by  Douglas Dix. All rights reserved for all photos and text