Calvin College Chimes

Iguana finds new home in DeVries greenhouse

Buddy, an iguana, has a new home in the DeVries Hall greenhouse. Photo by Jessica Zylstra.

Buddy, an iguana, has a new home in the DeVries Hall greenhouse. Photo by Jessica Zylstra.

Buddy, an iguana, has a new home in the DeVries Hall greenhouse. Photo by Jessica Zylstra.

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From a county fair prize, to a young boy’s pet, an iguana has taken sanctuary in Calvin’s greenhouse. The newest addition to DeVries Hall is a two-year-old green iguana who goes by the name Buddy. He is a shy, timid creature, about a foot and a half in length, who likes to perch himself on a small branch in the enclosure he calls home.

Benji Steenwyk, a sophomore at Calvin, is Buddy’s pal and caregiver. Steenwyk mentioned that the first year of Buddy’s life was quite a rough one, beginning at a county fair where he was won by a young boy from Grand Rapids. The boy took Buddy home as a pet but kept him in a small cage and struggled to care for him properly. Iguanas are difficult to care for. They need a lot of space, warm temperatures and UV lighting.

The boy’s parents noticed that Buddy was in need of a more suitable home. They talked to the boy’s teacher, who happened to be Steenwyk’s mom. She realized that an iguana needs a lot more than a classroom. Steenwyk and his mother thought of the Calvin greenhouse as a natural new home for the tropical creature. There, he would be surrounded by coffee plants and orange trees.

The boy’s parents built a wood and wire enclosure for Buddy to live in and moved him to Calvin about four months ago and, though still shy, he is getting more comfortable with his living situation. He used to hide in the corners of his cage but is now comfortable enough to eat out of Steenwyk’s hand and sometimes crawl up his arm. He even occasionally lets Steenwyk pet him.

Buddy still needs more time and work before being fully comfortable and tame. For now he is kept in the enclosure, but the aim is that eventually, when he gets older and larger, he could wander around the greenhouse. Steenwyk hopes Buddy will stay at Calvin, but it is not certain if he will be able to. Unless he gets passed down to the next greenhouse worker, he will have to go wherever Steenwyk goes.

Iguanas like Buddy can grow up to seven feet in length. Steenwyk hopes that one day a seven-foot iguana can be spotted in one of the trees. Until then, Steenwyk said that visitors should look for Buddy at the top of his cage, which is right next to the door upon entering the greenhouse.

Steenwyk says that Buddy should not be touched and has a fairly strong bite. Visitors should be quiet around him, move slowly and refrain from opening the cage.

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