Reptilian Residents of Simón Bolívar Park
Named in honor of Simón Bolívar, the legendary Liberator of South America, the Simón Bolívar Park in Guayaquil is a fascinating place to visit. Located just a few blocks from the city’s waterfront, Parque Bolívar features a series of ornamental ponds and gardens, with neat lawns, a network of pathways and conveniently placed park benches. In addition to providing a picturesque and peaceful setting for citizens and tourists to enjoy, Parque Bolívar is home to a thriving population of iguanas that have become so tame that they clearly enjoy being petted by visitors – and they certainly enjoy the treats that their audience provides.
The park’s prehistoric-looking reptilian inhabitants are Green Iguanas (Iguana iguana), indigenous to coastal tropical South America and some parts of Central America. Adult Green Iguanas can grow up to two meters long, measured from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail. The coloring and markings of these creatures can vary with different environmental conditions and can indicate social dominance. Moreover they change as they mature and the genders are different. So, visitors to Parque Bolívar are likely to see bright green baby iguanas, with older iguanas displaying a series of stripes and blotches, which become more uniform and duller as the iguana ages. Running from its head along its back is a crest of spines – which males will extend threateningly when defending their territory – and below their chins covering their throats, is a flap of skin called a dewlap.
Iguanas were most likely living in the area before Ecuador’s largest city Guayaquil was founded, and may have remained in the area as the city expanded, using any green areas left to survive. It is also quite likely that the population of iguanas has been added to by people dumping unwanted pets. Whatever the reason for them being there, the Green Iguanas of Parque Bolívar are quite comfortable in their surroundings as they laze in the sun, perch in the trees and entertain their audience. Certainly, Símon Bolívar Park and its resident iguana colony are an attraction well worth seeing when visiting the Ecuadorian city of Guayaquil.