Rhino Iguana

By Snaketracks / September 22, 2021

The Rhino Iguana is one of the coolest iguanas out there. These reptiles have horns on their dinosaur-like heads. This horn gives the species their common name which is rhinoceros iguana or rhino iguana.

In all, this iguana is much easier to care for than others such as the green iguana. Regardless, rhino iguana care is demanding and you should never adopt this lizard without careful consideration. They require a large enclosure and high temperatures.

This lizard is endemic to the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean. Like the blue iguana, the rhino iguana is also endangered.

Rhino Iguana  Facts 

  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Iguanidae
  • Scientific Name: Cyclura cornuta cornuta
  • Other Common Names: Rhinoceros iguana
  • Adult Size:  2 to 4.4 ft (60 to 136 cm)
  • Lifespan: 20 years
  • Diet: Vegetables and commercial iguana food
  • Average Price Range: $400 to $800
  • Recommended Books: Iguanas for Dummies by Melissa Kaplan

Physical Appearance

Rhino Iguana ( Cyclura cornuta cornuta) on black background
Rhino Iguana ( Cyclura cornuta cornuta) on black background

These lizards are very easy to identify, they have horns on their heads and they are large. The horn on their head is actually an enlarged scale or tubercle. The horns on an adult male’s head are larger than those on an adult female’s head. Males are also generally larger.

This reptile reaches lengths of 2 to 4.4 ft or 60 to 136 cm fully grown. As you can see they are large reptiles. This means that they require a lot of room if you wish to house a pet specimen.

The epidermal scales of this lizard are dark in color (grayish brown to olive) and rough in texture.

Natural Habitat & Geographic Range

These lizards are endemic to Hispaniola which includes the Dominican Republic and Haiti. They can be found predominantly on Isla Beata and the Jaragua National Park. Other areas where their populations are quite dense include southeastern Haiti and the islands off its shore.

Within Haiti, populations are very sparse. A subspecies of the rhino iguana  (C. c. onchiopsis)used to inhabit Navassa Island although it is now extinct.

The species is generally found in the desert, scrublands, and dry forests. They also used to be found near the coast but land developments have forced them to relocate inland. They live in arid habitats that are arid. The species need a lot of sunlight and warm temperatures to thrive.

Lifespan

There is very little information on the lifespan of the Cyclura cornuta. Information on lifespan has come from pet owners with a captive specimen reported having lived for 20 years. It is believed that members of the species can live for decades.

It is suspected that these iguanas live longer in captivity than in the wild.

The average lifespan in captivity is 16.7 years according to Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research.

Diet

The rhinoceros iguana is primarily herbivorous. They generally eat fungi, seeds and grains, and foliage (leaves, flowers, and fruits).

They will eat animal foods now and then. Juveniles are known to eat insects and other small animals. Animal foods they eat include carrion (carcass of already dead animals), insects, and arthropods such as land crabs.

Predators

The rhinoceros iguana has developed several anti-predator adaptations. These are however very ineffective against invasive predatory species such as pigs, dogs, and mongooses. As such, they are extensively preyed on by these invasive species that aren’t native to the geographic range.

Animals known to prey on Cyclura cornuta include humans, dogs, mongooses, and pigs.

Reproduction/Rhino Iguana Eggs

This species’ breeding season starts in May. After mating, it takes about 40 days for the fertilized eggs to develop. As such, eggs are usually laid from July to August. 

The eggs need to be incubated at a temperature of 30 degrees Celsius (or 86 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher. Incubation takes 4 to 5 months. Each gravid female lays 5 to 20 eggs with an average number of 10 eggs.

Both males and females of the species reach sexual maturity between ages 5 and 9 years.

Rhino Iguana Care Guide

Rhinoceros Iguana ( Cyclura cornuta cornuta) on rock
Rhinoceros Iguana ( Cyclura cornuta cornuta) on rock

Recommended Products

Here are some recommended products. It is important to keep in mind that these aren’t the only products that you will need.

Care for rhino iguanas can be demanding, these lizards are large. They require regular feeding, a large spacious enclosure, and high temperatures.

Housing

A large enclosure is a must. While hatchlings can manage in a 20-gallon tank, they will quickly outgrow this.

The enclosure size for a single specimen should be 12 ft (length) x 6 ft (width) x 6 ft (height). This should be the minimum. The larger the enclosure the more comfortable the pet will be.

A large enclosure also allows you to effortlessly maintain a temperature gradient.

I recommend a fully enclosed wire enclosure. This protects the lizard from outside threats but lets in sunlight.

Temperatures

High temperatures are a must for the enclosure. The temperature of the basking spot is crucial. Temperatures need to be high and should be around 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Try to keep the temperature at that level.

Depending on your locale you will need several basking lights to maintain this temperature.

The basking spot of the enclosure should be located at one end of the pen. This is the warm end. The cool end should have temperatures in the low 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Night-time temperatures don’t need to be as high. During the night temperatures mustn’t fall below70 degrees Fahrenheit. Maintain a temperature between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Only use overhead heating. Never use heat pads, heat rocks, or any heating device that the reptile can touch. This can end up causing serious burns.

Lighting

This reptile requires a lot of exposure to UVA and UVB radiation. The natural habitat of the reptile is sun-drenched, you should aim for that here. If the lizard is housed outdoors in an area that receives a lot of sunlight, then additional lighting may be unnecessary.

Humidity

These species do not require high humidity levels. Humidity levels of 65% should be adequate. If you must, you can mist the lizard and the enclosure. Occasionally misting juveniles help keep humidity high.

A fogger such as the COOSPIDER Reptile Foggercan automatically keeps air humidity levels high enough in the enclosure.

Substrates

This is most necessary when it comes to hatchlings and juveniles. You don’t want the lizard accidentally ingesting substrates that can lead to impaction. Use substrates that cannot be ingested such as newspaper, or reptile carpeting.  

Likewise, you can also use alfalfa pellets as these are edible. For outdoor enclosures, you can use sand and soil.

Feeding the Rhino Iguana 

Rhino Iguana ( Cyclura cornuta cornuta) in enclosure
Rhino Iguana ( Cyclura cornuta cornuta) in enclosure

The rhinoceros iguana is primarily herbivorous. As such, you need to feed them plant food. Some greens to feed them include turnip greens, mustard greens, collard greens, and dandelions. This food should be a staple of their diets.

Vegetables to feed them include green beans, bell peppers, yucca root, parsnip, and okra, you can also offer a small amount of fruits and only occasionally. Offer cactus fruits, cactus pads, papaya, dates, and figs.

Iguana foods can also be offered. There are several great choices out there such as Zilla Juvenile Iguana Diet and Rep-Cal Adult Iguana Food. Any of these two is a good source of fiber as well.

Calcium supplements are a good way to supplement calcium levels. Supplements should be used sparingly. Juveniles can be offered calcium and vitamin supplements every day. Adults should be offered supplements once or twice a day. 

Breeding and Availability

These reptiles are expensive. This is down to the endangered status which they carry. The number of rhinoceros iguana in the wild is very limited. If you wish to obtain a rhinoceros iguana, you will most likely need to contact a breeder. You may also have to wait until a hatchling is available.

In terms of pricing, specimens are expensive to obtain. Their prices can be as high as $800. And do not be surprised by asking prices of $400 and above for hatchlings.

Some online breeders you can obtain the rhinoceros iguana from include snakesatsunset.com, and backwaterreptiles.com.

Health Problems

These are hardy reptiles and as such, the health problems with the species are limited. Common issues include metabolic bone disease, cuts and bruises, respiratory infections, and shedding problems.  Dehydration is also a major health problem.

Cuts and Bruises

These are to be expected. The lizards can get caught on the wire of the enclosure or injure themselves one way or another. Superficial injuries need to be treated using betadine solutions. For serious injuries such as those caused by a predator, you will need to visit your local herp vet.

Burns

If the setup is right, this shouldn’t happen. Make sure that the heat bulbs are installed about a foot above the basking spot of the reptile. This should ensure that the reptile cannot come into direct contact with the hot surface. Avoid the use of heating pads, mats, and hot rocks.

Dehydration/Shedding Problems

When the enclosure is too dry, the iguana can have a problem shredding. This can lead to loss of toes and even limbs. A humidity level of 65% should be adequate. See our guide on foggers and misters for more info.

Metabolic Bone Disease

This is one of the most common reptile health afflictions. This is caused by vitamin D or calcium deficiency. Foods high in calcium are a must. Leafy greens are high in calcium. You can also supplement their diet with calcium and vitamin D supplement powder.

Vitamin D is naturally synthesized once the reptile is exposed to UVA or UVB radiation. This can be obtained through prolonged daily exposure to the sun. You can also install UVA/UVB light bulbs, if the iguana is kept indoors.

Conservation/Threats 

According to the IUCN Red List, the rhinoceros iguana is now an endangered species. While it used to be a Vulnerable species, the latest assessment in 2018 lists them as endangered.

There are many reasons for the endangered status that this species carries. Habitat destruction caused by charcoal production, bauxite mining, agricultural development, and many more have shrunk the natural habitats of this magnificent species.

Additionally, the introduction of invasive alien predators such as dogs, pigs, mongoose, and cats has significantly affected the wild populations. The species even have to compete with invasive herbivores such as cows and goats for food. Cows are even known to trample on their nests.

The rhinoceros iguana is protected by wildlife regulations, park reserves, and NGOs such as Grupo Jaragua. They are listed on CITES Appendix I.

FAQ’s

Are Rhino Iguanas good pets?

Rhino iguanas are ideal pets for dedicated pet owners. They require an expensive set up with a whole lot of space. They also require regular and daily feeding. The temperature and lighting needs can also be exactly. Unless you are absolutely prepared, the rhino iguana wouldn’t make a good pet. 

However, with the right care, they are one of the best large lizards you can keep as a pet.

Where is the Rhino Iguana found?

These lizards are endemic to Hispaniola which includes the Dominican Republic and Haiti. They can be found predominantly on Isla Beata and the Jaragua National Park. Other areas where their populations are quite dense include southeastern Haiti and the islands off its shore.

They can also be found in herp pet shops and by reptile breeders. Some online breeders you can obtain the rhinoceros iguana from include snakesatsunset.com and backwaterreptiles.com.

What do Rhino Iguanas eat?

The rhino iguana is primarily a herbivore. In its natural habitat, the Cyclura cornuta feeds on foliage, seeds, grains, fungi, and many more. They also occasionally feed on carrion, insects, and crabs.

In captivity, they accept vegetables, leafy greens, fruits, and commercial iguana diets.

How big do Rhino Iguanas get?

This reptile reaches lengths of 2 to 4.4 ft or 60 to 136 cm fully grown. As you can see they are large reptiles. They also reach weights of 4.5 to 9 kg. This means that they require a lot of room if you wish to house a pet specimen.

Conclusion

Rhino iguanas may not be the most difficult iguana to care for but caring for this reptile species is still not easy. It is best to be fully prepared before taking on the species. For starters, you need to build the reptile a large enclosure. This cannot be bought prefab. The enclosure can be made of a wire enclosure and is best situated outdoors because of its size.

While juveniles can be housed indoors in a 20-gallon enclosure, adults need an enclosure with a height of about 6 ft or larger.

With all said and done, caring for and owning a rhino iguana is a rewarding experience. Compared to other iguanas such as the green iguana, rhinos are chilled animals. They are much more likely to lash out and are much more tolerant of human contact. However, they still do have sharp teeth and claws and it is important to be wary of those.

If you have any questions or additional information on the rhino iguana, kindly learn a comment.

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