Tuesday, January 24, 2017

st. francis of iguana

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away (or, at least, an hour's drive from here), a man had a dream. What would the world be like if mankind could live in harmony with other creatures?

The man is Ramon Medina Archundia. And he started with the green iguana.

It was a good choice. Even though iguana have a wide range in Mexico, they are in constant danger of being reduced to leather for handbags or a rather stringy stew. In my neighborhood, large iguana quickly disappear.

Knowing that, about 40 years ago, Ramon started protecting the iguana in his Manzanillo neighborhood. The word spread. People started bringing him both healthy and injured animals.

Over the years, he has turned his property into the perfect sanctuary for green iguana. There are guamuchil trees for sunbathing, a drainage canal for the occasional splash, and plenty of food provided by Ramon and his family. 

Best of all, the iguana are free to come and go -- if they choose. But what would be the point? The sanctuary is a secure place to fill a belly and find a mate. Outside its walls, death lurks.

The government has played political games with Ramon over the years. The parties pledge solidarity with him, but he produces zero revenue in taxes because the sanctuary charges no admission fee. That is one reason the government attempted to shut him down a year ago -- flying the usual smokescreen of environmental protection.

What visitors do receive is an informal background briefing on why the iguana are there and how they live out their lives. When we visited yesterday, the main topic was why the iguana were eating so languidly; the weather had been too cool for a couple of weeks. After all, they are reptiles.

We were given the opportunity to see the iguana up close and personal. There is a police tape barrier to keep people from stampeding the herd. (There are over 600 in residence.) However, with a little patience, they will wander almost within reach.

The sanctuary also includes some small enclosures with wild boar, a very friendly raccoon, coati-mundis, parrots, and two magnificent caracara. The small enclosures are a stark contrast to the freedom of the iguana. Even so, Ramon obviously dotes on the animals he is protecting.

While we were wandering through the sanctuary, I thought of Ramon's commitment to improving man's relationship with animals, and thought about the big game fish tournament I attended over the weekend in Barra de Navidad. I will let the photograph speak for itself. 

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