For the past 40 years, Ramon Archundia, has dedicated his life to the preservation of Mexico’s endangered iguanas. His magical ‘iguanario’, a reptile sanctuary in the center of Manzanillo city, is now home to 642 iguanas, as well as other wild animal species.
The story of Iguanario Archundia began over four decades ago. Sickened by the plight of iguanas at the hands of man, Ramon Medina Archundia rescued a pair of these majestic reptiles and set up a small enclosure for them in a marshy space in downtown Manzanillo, where two huamúchil trees offered the perfect place for sunbathing. But that was only the beginning, because Ramon and his father Juan, kept bringing in new rescued iguanas, and after word of their small ‘iguanario’ spread around the city and the whole Mexican state of Colima, other people started bringing in iguanas, knowing that they would be well taken care of. Today, Iguanario Archundia is home to over 640 iguanas, as well as other ‘donated’ animals like raccoons, badgers or turtles.
You might be wondering why Ramon didn’t set all these iguanas free, if he cared about them so much. It turns out that living in the wild isn’t the safest option for these endangered creatures, at least not in Mexico, where they have been hunted to the point of extinction, either for their hides, or to be sold as pets. Although not an ideal home, Iguanario Archundia is a safe haven for iguanas, and also a place where people can see them up close, interact with them and learn more about they can do ensure their survival as a species. Entrance is free for everyone who wants to visit, which is probably why Archundia has received no support from the Government. It doesn’t generate any taxable income.
That’s what most animal activists who know about the Manzanillo iguanario think. Last year, environmental organization MAHUAL Quintana Roo reported that authorities sought to close the unique reptile sanctuary, instead of supporting Ramon’s conversational efforts. “He was promised support by all political parties over the years, but has received none so far,” they wrote in a statement. “Few people even know that such a tourist attraction exists, and the government does not advertise it, because it receives no tax from it.”
Taking care of over 600 iguanas is no small task, considering that they consume about 400 pounds of food a day, but Ramon Archundia has managed to do it for many years. Every day, he visits the local markets in Manzanillo to collect hundreds of pounds of fruits and vegetables from like-minded animal lovers who are more than happy to contribute to his cause. Some of the locals make daily contributions as well, and a number of volunteers are always available if he needs any kind of help.
Ramon cleans and feeds the iguanas daily, and shows them the love and care they deserve. And watching them gather around him at feeding time and returning his affection, it’s pretty obvious that they recognize him as their protector.
After Mexico’s Federal Agency for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA) seized his iguanas and threatened to close down his iguanario, due to the species’ endangered status and the fact that the reptiles had not been registered, animal protection agencies and local authorities jumped to his defense and managed to keep the unique sanctuary open. They are now helping Archundia get all the necessary paperwork so he can continue his mission in accordance with the law.
While grateful for their leniency, both Ramon Archundia and other Mexican animal protection activists have expressed their discontent with PROFEPA’s initial stance – threatening to close down the iguanario after ignoring it for decades.
If you’re ever in Colima, you just have to stop in Manzanillo and visit the amazing Iguanario Archundia. It’s an iguana sanctuary unlike any other. And it’s completely free.