Hi! I just started following you and I was wondering if you had a post that talks about Kaiju's...origin story I guess? I'm just really interested in what drew you to tegus and why/how you ended up with Kaiju. She's super cute and I can tell you really love her!
Picture this: A teenager running wild on an island in the summer. She’s got a bike and her cell phone and her parents’ permission to go anywhere she wants- it’s a small island, not a lot can happen- and anyways, there’s more bikes than cars. So long as she stays out of the swamps and doesn’t leave the island, she can pretty much do as she likes. It’s a heady feeling, freedom- knowing that you’re at your liberty to do whatever you like without having to compromise. Just you and your thoughts and what seems like an endless summer day before the sun sinks into the ocean.
And that teenager, being me, had some favorite places on the island. The old cemetery, the library, the historical village, the beach, the bayou (ha ha like I’m gonna stay out of the swamp), and the nature center, complete with its trails and lookouts and places to kayak. So one day, I’m tooling around Sanibel and I stop at one of the little cafés that dot the island- there’s dozens of them, little restaurants with charming names and coffee shops that sell shade and air conditioning as much as they sell coffee- and I’m browsing through a flier of events for the week and I see there’s going to be a talk about American crocodiles over at the nature center. Now, I’ve got a deep and abiding love for American crocodiles and their close cousins, the Cuban crocodile- so I pedal over there, intent on going. I got there a lot earlier than I needed to for the program, and I catch the tail end of another program on invasive species- and that’s when I saw the picture.
Five feet long, black and white, a striking lizard with beautiful eyes. A long pink tongue poked out, and I could tell it walked with a purpose. I’d always wanted a big lizard, but had never even seen one of those before. I knew it wasn’t a monitor, but what was it? Tegu. I’d seen the word before, when I was a kid. I had this big encyclopedia-type book of reptiles, and all I remembered was that they were so much of a pest to chicken farmers in Argentina that some of the Argentinian chicken farmers actually switched over to farming the tegus. I hadn’t ever thought about it since, and I’d never seen an actual picture of one this big and pretty.
Awed by the lizard, I put it out of my mind- after all, I was living in a dorm room. But then, several years later, I’d moved out and was in an apartment that was a-ok with me having animals. I knew the time was right to get a big lizard. I had the time, the space, the money, and the experience. Originally, I’d wanted a peach-throat monitor, but something about them just didn’t feel right. I’d started researching them about a year before I moved, and there were some things that just didn’t quite mesh with my lifestyle. But then I considered the tegu and realize that we’d be perfect for each other.
The question, then, was which tegu to get? I knew I wanted a black and white or a blue, and I knew I didn’t want a baby. A yearling, I thought. That’d be ideal. So I started looking at breeders and sellers and seeing who had what- and that’s when I came across a guy who trapped ferals and sold them as pets. So here was a guy engaging directly in Everglades conservation by removing individuals from the population, but at the same time, not killing them. I was charmed immediately. He didn’t have any females listed on his site, but I sent him an e-mail and asked, and he sent me some pictures of two younger females he had for sale. One was this spectacular flashy high white lady; the other was smaller, darker, and slightly out of focus.
But there was just… something about her. I couldn’t explain it, really- I just saw the picture and went “yup, that’s my lizard.”
She was at my house three days later. She’s a lot bigger now and as far as I can tell, nice and content to be living in an apartment rather than a swamp.