Published On: Wed, Sep 3rd, 2014

Animals of Curaçao

curacao-iguana-close-up (1024x750)Although Curaçao has a relatively small variety of land animals, a surprising number of species are unique to the island. There's not a single poisonous animal here, with the exception of two very rare scorpion species and a similarly rare centipede. Your most annoying encounter with animal life will definitely be the mosquitos.

The island's most common animals are right underfoot. Whiptail lizards, endemic to Curaçao, can be found basking in the sun almost wherever you step. The slender brown ones (lagadishi) are the females and young, the larger blue green ones (blò-blò) the mature males of the same species.

Geckos inhabit the scrubby trees, feeding on those ever present mosquitos. The male anole (totèki or kaku) boasts an impressive bright yellow and orange dewlap which he pompously fans to attract females and ward off attackers. One species of gecko, a translucent tan color, with bulging black eyes and splayed limbs, has suction feet which enable it to scale walls. It can sometimes be found scurrying across a ceiling or hanging, head down, inside a closet; though its appearance can give you quite a start, it is harmless (and eats those pesky mosquitos). Local lore has christened it pega pega ("sticky sticky"), because it is rumored to stick to your skin.

There is no doubt that the iguana (yuana) is king of Curaçao reptiles. Although its impressive dragon-like dorsal crest gives iggy a ferocious look, the animal is, in fact, quite shy. Because of its rare double penis the meat and eggs are coveted as supposedly powerful aphrodisiacs. Iguana soup is a local delicacy; the meat tastes somewhat like chicken. Iguana hunting is a popular sport so don't be surprised if you see someone by the side of the road proudly holding up their catch up for sale. Although iguanas are land animals they are excellent swimmers and can hold their breath underwater for as long as five minutes. The young are bright green; adults can change color from green to grey, blending in easily with the underbrush and rocky outcroppings. Curaçao is the first place in the world to successfully breed them in captivity.

Several species of frogs have accidentally entered the island in shipments of sand and plants. After heavy rains listen for the hollow croaking of the male sapu as they gather in pools to mate. There are also two local species of brown snakes, including a blind one that lives under rocks and fallen leaves; both are totally harmless.

On the limestone terraces of the northern and southern coasts live several species of small land snails; some are unique to Curaçao, others are also found on neighboring Aruba and Bonaire. These snails, which need the rich limestone to build their exquisitely ribbed shells, feed on the tiny micro-organisms and other organic matter which are washed up on the terraces in the ocean spray.

The shy, white-tailed deer is rare, and lives only in the least disturbed estates of the western part of the island and the thickets of Christoffel Park. Curaçao is the only Caribbean island where the deer has been present since pre-Columbian times.

Also native to Curaçao are several interesting species of bats that inhabit caves and rocky outcroppings along the coast. The insect-eating bats help keep the mosquitoes at bay; a single brown bat can eat as many as 600 mosquitoes in an hour! Nectar-eating ones actually pollinate several of the night blooming cacti (whose fruit, in turn, feeds local birds during the dry months). Watch for the fish-eating bulldog bat skimming the surface of inner bays at dusk.

In Christoffel Park you may come across some of the island's few wild donkeys. Originally brought by the Spaniards they were at one time the island's main means of transportation. Also brought by the Spaniards, the destructive goats are everywhere; breaking into neighborhood gardens and grazing on open lands, they nibble any green shoot they can find. A few roam wild in Christoffel Park; many others stray far from their owners. Perhaps their greatest redeeming social value is tasty sòpi' kabritu (goat soup).

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