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NS Press: A big, green, hulking softy

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Posted by: W von Papineäu at Fri Jun 13 17:03:56 2008  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by W von Papineäu ]  

CHRONICLE HERALD (Halifax, Nova Scotia) 13 June 08 A big, green, hulking softy - Abandoned Astro affectionate, safe (Monique Muise)
He is more than 1.5 metres long, covered in a tough lay­er of multi-coloured scales and equipped with a mean set of claws, but Denise McKay says Astro the iguana is a big softy at heart.
Ms. McKay, a certified reptile specialist who operates Ssafe Haven So­ciety for Reptiles and Amphibians in Lower Sackville, has been caring for Astro since SPCA officials found him lying on an Astroturf-covered log (hence the name) in an abandoned home without sufficient heat, food or water.
She suspects the owners didn’t know how to care for the giant lizard. “I got the impression that they had just gotten him," she said. “He was thin, he was dehydrated and he was cold."
Astro’s health has improved significantly after two weeks of regular care. He is now eating more regularly and seems to be adjusting to his tem­porary accommodations. According to Ms. McKay, he has been the perfect house guest.
“He is the sweetest animal. So lovable . . . and very affectionate," Ms. McKay said of the fully grown male iguana.
“If I put my arms around him and give him a hug, he’ll stand up on his two front legs," she said. “He’s just a gentle soul."
Ms. McKay has now turned her at­tention to finding a more permanent home for Astro. But before people come knocking on her door to adopt him, she said there are few things they need to understand.
“First of all, know that they’re strict vegetarians," she said. “Iguana diets have to be perfect or else they’re not going to thrive. You have to know exactly what to get and what not to get in the produce department."
As well as carefully monitoring Astro’s diet, his new owners will need to keep him hydrated at all times in or­der to prevent kidney failure, provide him with a weekly bath and make sure he stays very warm under heat­ing lamps. In order to digest its food properly, an iguana needs to maintain a minimum internal temperature of about 27 C.
Ms. McKay also cautioned against bringing Astro into a family home.
“They’re not a child’s pet," she said. “For two months out of the year they go through breeding season, and they can get aggressive."
Caring for animals like Astro is nothing new for Ms. McKay, whose love of reptiles and amphibians goes back to her childhood. She has been a consultant and has fostered reptiles and amphibians for the SPCA and Canadian Wildlife Services.
Along with numerous foster charges, she owns a veritable menagerie, including five lizards, seven snakes, a couple of Indian walking stick insects and a Haitian toad.
It makes for a very full house, and Ms. McKay said she hopes she can find a suitable home for Astro soon— a place where he’ll be well cared for and loved.
“I just don’t ever want him to starve ever again," she said.
Ms. McKay is also looking for a home for another male iguana named Spike who was rescued after a bad fall in which his hind leg was broken.
A big, green, hulking softy


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