Galapagos Wildlife: Land Iguanas
For wildlife sightings, I think it may be hard to beat the Galapagos. The animals are just everywhere! I spotted our first one a mere 5 minutes from the airport, on the short bus ride to the water taxi. Through the open window I heard a loud rustling in the brush as we were slowly rounding a corner. Out of habit, I immediately thought of cute, furry ground creatures like squirrels and rabbits. Imagine my surprise and delight when I spotted a huge, yellow, scaly land iguana out the window! We would see many more of these fascinating reptiles throughout our time in the Galapagos, but the first one was certainly the most impressive.
In the Galapagos, there are 2 endemic species of land iguana. We only saw one, Conolophus subcristatus, as the other lives exclusively on Santa Fé, an island we didn’t visit. Adult land iguanas are primarily vegetarians and eat mostly Opuntia cactus pads and fruits, as well as the flowers from other cacti. They even eat the spines, which is good since the Opuntia cacti are an important source of moisture. Some land iguanas are also opportunistic carnivores and will eat insects and carrion to supplement their diet.
We saw the 2 iguanas pictured here on Isla Seymour Norte, where their ancestors were translocated by William Randolph Hearst when he visited the archipelago in the 1930’s. As they have no predators on this island, they grow quite large and live long lives. In general, the Galapagos land iguana has an average life span of 50-60 years. Adult males can grow to more than 1 meter (3.3 ft) in length and weigh up to 13 kilograms (29 pounds).