How many visitors to Puerto — or residents, for that matter — are aware that there is an iguanario in La Barra? I didn’t know there was such a thing here until it was proposed that I write about it. When the idea came up that we invite the primary children from the Papalotes school to tour the facility, I immediately accepted the assignment.
You reach Don Galo´s iguanario by crossing the bridge over the Colotepec River, turning to the right and following the main road — there it is on your left. Since the iguanario is run by one single, very passionate family, visitors must call ahead in order to schedule a visit.
Don Galo greets us with a big smile, and the children instantly follow him when he dives in to a small cage where two young iguanas are being held for the visit. One is black and one is green, and Don Galo explains everything about the two different species, what they eat, where they live, shows them the third eye they´ve got on top of the head and even lets the children touch and hold them.
We learn that iguanas are in danger because people chase them down and eat them. When they catch a mother, they also take the eggs and so, little by little, the iguanas may cease to exist. This is why he supports communities that want to have their own iguanario: by insuring the well-being of 50% of the iguanas, another 50% can serve as food.
Don Galo also has crocodiles, and gets a lot of questions from the children as to how dangerous they are and if they eat people. He assures us they don´t, but also advises the kids never to take their dogs along when they go to the river. Apparently wet furry dogs smell yummy to crocs.
We also find tortoises, boas, rattlesnakes and parrots of all sizes and colors. The project to rescue these animals started in the year 2000, and is kept going through private donations that the family receives, mainly to feed the animals.
Right now the project needs $9,000 MXN to build a house for the parrots, and Don Galo asks us if the kids could help him make donation cans that he could distribute in restaurants and hotels here in Puerto. Who would decline that kind of request?
Since the start, Don Galo and his family have released 5,800 iguanas, 1,256 crocodiles and 40,000 turtles. The iguanario is well worth a visit — for both young and old. It is small and humble, but remember, it exists only because of one family´s strong passion for animals that many reject. And if you spot one of those donation cans, please make a contribution to Don Galo’s parrot house!
• Located in La Barra: to get there from Puerto, cross the Colotepec River and turn right on the main road to La Barra. The iguanario is on the left.
• What to see: iguanas, of course, and crocodiles, turtles, parrots and more.
• To visit: call Don Galo at 954 544 1551.