Elizabeth, beloved museum iguana, is dead

The Brooklyn Paper
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Elizabeth the iguana, who entertained thousands and mingled with mayors, celebrities and disabled children from her perch at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, has died. She was 19.

The news sent shockwaves through borough reptilophiles, museum employees and political circles, where Elizabeth was a well-known and beloved fixture in the greenhouse at the Crown Heights institution.

“The impact of her life has been immense, to say the least, even by the standards of a human being,” Live Animal Curator Jarad Astin told his staff after last Thursday’s death. “The level of trust that I know we all could put in her is not found in all iguanas, and it is this very trait that made her so special.”

Elizabeth was a four-foot captive bred, common green iguana — part of a species that is endangered, especially in the rain forests, where clear-cutting, burning, and natives’ consumption of the so-called “chicken of the tree” has caused massive population decline.

But here in Brooklyn, Elizabeth found a quiet life as part of the museum’s “tractable collection,” a group of critters used for handling and teaching kids.

“Elizabeth lived a full life doing what she does best: entertaining Brooklyn’s children and families,” said Borough President Markowitz. “Whether she was rubbing scales with politicians or hanging in the greenhouse with [fellow iguana] Iggy — Elizabeth did it with a real Brooklyn attitude. She will be missed.”

The cause of Elizabeth’s demise was not immediately clear, but it was apparently timely. Astin said that her death was “not entirely unexpected [given her] age.”

The museum plans to hold a memorial service in the greenhouse, Astin said.

Elizabeth leaves behind fellow iguana, Iggy, 8.

It’s certainly not the first time that Brooklyn has lost an oversized zoological personality. In 2008, the New York Aquarium lost Ayveq, its famed masturbating walrus, a death that tugged on all of Brooklyn’s heart.

And earlier this year, the Prospect Park Zoo suffered some horrible moos: the death of Aggie, the cow.

Reach reporter Dan MacLeod at or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow his tweets at
Updated 5:27 pm, July 9, 2018
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