There is never a dull moment at the Guadalajara veterinary clinic named Entre Mascotas that belongs to Ana Garcia and Carlos Martinez.
A steady trickle of cats and dogs are brought in for grooming and medical care, but Garcia, who is a veterinarian, homeopath and dedicated animal rescuer, will drop everything to talk—for two hours, in one case—with people who bring in a wild animal in distress.
On a recent spring day, the interruption was a neighborhood woman carrying a box with a tiny, feisty, hungry chick of an unidentified species inside. But around New Year’s Day, it was a cholo – a slightly impolite, colloquial term for a young man with an appearance and speech suggesting gang connections; not the kind of person you want to argue with.
The cholo had a bucket with an iguana inside. The animal had more than one unusual trait: it was black instead of the more common green variety, and was missing half its tail and, later observation showed, most of its fingers and claws. It was barely moving. Garcia immediately picked it up, as she is in the habit of doing, and clasped it softly to her chest.
The young man said he had found the iguana “on the highway” and kept it in a bird cage, but wasn’t forthcoming about why he had brought it to the veterinary clinic – to identify it, he suggested.
But Garcia saw that the iguana was extremely sick. “It was maltreated, dehydrated and moribund,” she said.
“I spent two hours talking to him about the importance of different species of animals, and to respect them and their habitats. I told him, ’It’s not my iguana or your iguana,’ but it belongs in its habitat and is a protected species in danger of extinction.”
After two hours, the young man became aggressive, Garcia said, grabbed the iguana off her chest and left.
The next Saturday, however, he unexpectedly returned with the reptile in the pail, left it, and hurried off, never to return.
“It was in even worse condition than before. We rushed to inject it with an anti-dehydration solution and put it in a micro-climate. We started giving it baby food made of meat and vegetables through a straw. It didn’t move for about ten days, but it didn’t die. Finally it started to eat on its own.” Ana noted that after examining the animal, they saw that “it” was a female. “That’s not easy for beginners to see,” she added.
As the iguana began to eat, Ana and her teenage son, Carlos, who had gravitated toward caring for all the reptiles that came the way of the vet clinic, put her into a large cage filled with tree branches, where four green iguanas and a turtle were living, along with other temporarily sheltered iguanas.
“We started giving her a sort of cocktail of fruit and the one she liked best was papaya. She ate all the papaya before the other fruit. So we named her Papaya.”
Ana explained that she and Carlos, Jr., affectionately handle the iguanas a lot, because Papaya and the four green iguanas, who were rescued from a flea market, are so badly injured that they can never be returned to the wild. (There were originally ten rescued iguanas, but only four survived.) However, when other iguanas arrive in good condition, they are not handled much because the vets know they will be released and don’t want them to lose their fear of people. Ana estimates they have released about five iguanas, as well as dozens of rescued birds. Occasionally, animals who are too injured to be released are transported to some contacts of Ana’s who care for them in a semi-natural setting.
After a previous article in the Guadalajara Reporter, the number of people bringing in animals in distress has picked up, Garcia noted. The vets are currently caring for an injured, baby hummingbird that was bitten by an animal.