Rhinoceros iguanas (Cyclura cornuta) are a species of lizards that is primarily found in the Republic of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. I think, that these animals are very beautiful specimen and graceful beings. They don’t hunt and kill other animals, but are themselves threatened from extinction. A man-made problem, of course.

Wikipedia describes them as followed:

Although quick to flee when attacked or threatened, they will aggressively attack by biting and repeatedly striking with their thick tail if cornered.”


Well, if you ‘attack’ them with fresh fruits, they might indeed start biting. That’s exactly what I did during my excursion in the Southwest of the Dominican Republic. And I never expected that an amphibious creature as the Rhinoceros iguana could be so beautiful and graceful, but at the same time also quick and competitive when it comes to cherries 🍒

But first things first. Let me first show you, where I could find Rhinoceros iguanas in the Dominican Republic.

Where can I find Rhinoceros iguana in the Dominican Republic?

You can find them in several places all over the Hispañola island. The most stable populations can be found on Isla Beata and the Jaragua National Park. That’s exactly where I have had the joy to meet these curious animals personally.

Exactly here:

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‘Laguna de Oviedo’ is a lagoon with a surface of 25 km2 (9.65 mi2). It is the second largest body of water in the Dominican Republic and due to its nearly isolated terrain in the Jaragua National Park and sparse climate conditions a perfect habitat for Rhinoceros iguanas.

They are of course not living inside of the salty water. On Laguna de Oviedo, there are 24 islands of different size and vegetation.

A satellite view from Laguna de Oviedo. The islands of the lagoon can be seen better here. Rhinoceros iguanas live on these little rocky islands
Source: Wikipedia

Some of these islands offer the perfect living conditions Rhinoceros iguanas need to survive.

How do Rhinoceros iguanas get their name?

That’s a good question. Why are these animals called Rhinoceros iguanas? It doesn’t really look like they have something in common with a huge Rhinoceros from Africa.

At first glance, they appear not different to other iguanas. Wrinkled skin with a dark grey, brown and green color, a long swinging tail and flexible claw feet to move rapidly forward and climb up trees. There isn’t any obvious difference between a regular iguana and a Rhinoceros iguanas.

That’s correct and it needs a closer look to distinguish these two species from each other. It becomes quite clear when zooming into the heads of these amphibians:

The regular iguana doesn’t have on his snout anything. But on the snouts of the Rhinoceros iguanas grow and protrude these characteristic horns. That’s why they are compared with a rhinoceros, although they haven’t met each other before

Of course there are many more differences amongst the iguana species. But the horn from a Rhinoceros iguana is the most defined and special characteristic that distinguishes it from all the other iguanas.

Next page: Let’s feed the Rhinoceros iguanas