ROYAL OAK, Mich., August 25, 2010 – A rare reptile, believed to be a stowaway in a shipment of auto parts from Mexico, has found a new home at the Detroit Zoo. A Yucatan spiny-tailed iguana was spotted scurrying across the loading dock at the Ford Motor Company’s Van Dyke Transmission Plant on July 29. The reptile can only be found in a 1,200-square-mile range of the Yucatan Peninsula.
After discovering the surprise visitor, a safety engineer at the Ford plant called Sterling Heights Animal Control, who helped relocate the iguana to a temporary home at the Sterling Heights Nature Center. The Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) was contacted the next day and was asked to provide the fugitive reptile with a permanent home.
The DZS is frequently asked to help with the rescue of exotic animals from private owners, pseudo-sanctuaries, circuses and roadside zoos. “This is a unique and rare rescue situation. This particular species is from a localized area in Mexico and it’s uncommon to see them in zoos,” said Curator of Reptiles Jeff Jundt.
The Yucatan spiny-tailed iguana (Ctenosaura defensor) is one of the smallest iguana species, only growing up to a foot long. Its body sports a variety of colors, including a black chest with white spots, gray tail with a blue tint and a red lower back. The species sometimes uses its tail, covered with spiny scales, for defense by lashing it back and forth.
The iguana, an adult male, is currently in quarantine to make certain it is healthy before joining the Detroit Zoo’s black iguana in the fall at the Holden Museum of Living Reptiles.