Who are these creatures staring at me? They tap on my glass, scream every time I move and talk to me as if I will respond. What do they expect? I am just a 10-year-old iguana named Curie, owned by the biology department. I am also referred to as MSUM’s dragon mascot.
I am not going to lie, though; I truly enjoy these bizarre creatures’ presence. Every time they squish their faces and breathe on the glass, I can’t help but run up to them and scratch at the door hoping to be let out.
My best friend Harrison Pantera, biochemistry and biotechnology senior, plays with me every afternoon and feeds me green leaves. If he isn’t on time, I let him know by scratching at the window. He has never taken a day off to visit me, and even comes in on days that the biology department is closed.
Harrison takes me outside to run around MSUM campus and sit on the grass on warm days. I get to see all the strange creatures again, hustling around in all directions. I am not sure where they are going in such a hurry, but sometimes they stop for a few minutes to pet me and visit with Harrison.
I am not the first iguana on campus, and I was told I would not be the last. There were three iguanas before me named Moses, Jackson and Nico.
There was a long line of iguanas stretching back to the ’70s when iguanas were considered exotic pets. The one right before me, Nico, lived for 12 years and passed away in January of 2010. I was told that he was not very nice and never liked to be held.
“You had to wear hawk handling gloves to take Nico out, otherwise he would rip your arms open,” said Todd Nolte, MSUM’s laboratory services specialist.
Interest spiked calls from all over with people wanting to give MSUM’s biology department a new iguana. That’s when Todd found me in February 2010.
“I actually interviewed for iguanas, went to houses, checked them out and Curie was the one that stood out to me,” Todd said. “It’s interesting because he is the red color mutant and I like that because it’s our school colors.”
I previously lived in an apartment where I roamed freely around. I also let a college student (an old friend of mine) live with me. Then when MSUM’s biology department adopted me, they created a contest and asked students to find a name for me. They decided on Curie, after the famous French scientist Marie Curie. I enjoy the biology department, even though these creatures don’t know if I am a male or female yet.
The day I came to campus was the day I met Harrison. He went to the biology department asking for a job as a freshman. He didn’t expect to be introduced to me, although we have been best friends since. I knew we were meant to be friends when he allowed me to climb on top of his head.
Harrison and Todd are not the only once that love visiting me, Todd allows third and fourth graders to come and play with me when they have time to kill while on campus for events. I can easily say that I am probably the highlight of their day, just as they are mine. Many other schools contact Todd to make appointments to meet me.
I have many other friends that I share the biology department with such as snakes, mice, varieties of fish, turtles, cockroaches and a clown fish named Nemo. With the museum upstairs and a pond in the basement, no one would be bored while walking around the department.
I am glad my story is finally being told. At last I have an opportunity, after nearly four years, to tell MSUM that I am here, and that I am always watching. I may look like just a simple iguana sitting behind a glass enclosure, but I am a huge part of this campus iguana tradition and proud to be MSUM’s mascot.
If anyone is interested in taking me out of my enclosure or get a tour of the biology department, just contact Todd or Harrison in the biology department office. You can contact Nolte at firstname.lastname@example.org and Harrison at email@example.com.
Disclaimer: this article was not written by Curie the iguana. All quotes are real.
BY SAMANTHA STARK