Crisis Coexistence: The Challenge of Urban Iguanas in Medellín


In Medellín, a fascinating display of coexistence between urban development and biodiversity unfolds with the iguana season, as they traverse the city in their annual quest for sun, mating, and nesting along the banks of the Medellín River. However, this natural spectacle is tarnished by tragic scenes of iguanas being run over while trying to cross the Regional roadway, particularly near landmarks such as the Universidad Nacional, moving from areas like Cerro El Volador.

These reptiles, in search of the ideal moist environment for nesting, often head towards areas near the river, where construction material or sand provides the perfect setting for their eggs. Despite the three months it takes for the eggs to hatch, they face countless dangers, resulting in the loss of hundreds of iguanas annually in the city.

To counteract this situation, the Metropolitan Area has implemented strategies such as the creation of wildlife crossings and the rescue of injured iguanas, in addition to recovering eggs for artificial incubation and the subsequent release of the hatchlings. Despite these efforts, the community criticizes the lack of more effective measures to ensure the safe passage of these and other species, emphasizing the need for safe corridors, especially for iguanas descending from Cerro El Volador.

The danger posed by Medellín’s roads is not exclusive to iguanas. The risk to colipatos butterflies, which travel thousands of kilometers from Central America, many of whom die run over during their passage through the region, has recently been highlighted. These tragedies could be mitigated with simple measures such as reducing vehicle speed.

Medellín’s iguanas, mainly herbivorous, depend on open spaces to regulate their body temperature, essential for their metabolism and daily activity. Males, identifiable by their distinctive crests used in courtship, are agile climbers in warm conditions. Despite their peaceful interaction with humans and pets, their preservation faces significant challenges in the urban environment.

The Metropolitan Area calls on the community to report any iguana in a risky situation, emphasizing the importance of community cooperation in protecting local biodiversity. This joint effort benefits not only the iguanas but also reinforces Medellín’s commitment to environmental conservation amidst its urban growth.