The Future of Calvin’s Green Iguana Eco-Corner Sanctuary in Peril

Mr Calvin and Green Iguana Eco-Corner – one of the most visited spots in San Pedro – is being asked to move from the property they currently inhabit.

Big Iguana lounging on dock

But let me back up a bit…

Yesterday, I stopped in to visit Mr. Calvin – the creator of San Pedro’s incredibly unique and incredibly popular Eco-Iguana Corner – the green iguana sanctuary set in an old-growth mangrove patch right in the town center.

If you have not been – here is a post with directions about the sanctuary: Jungle in San Pedro: A Must-Visit

A recent visit by the ABC Pre-Schoolers and their moms

His work and his park are one of the prime examples of a “hidden jewel” on our island – and probably the most accessible one. Though it is unexpectedly tucked between the town gas station and the electric plant, everyone is surprised by how beautiful it is. I am surprised each time.

Orange Iguana blocking the pathway
Male green iguana claiming the best sun patch

Here is the problem: There is an issue with the land/mangroves that the park is located on – land that is owned by Belize Electricity Limited. Mr. Calvin is being asked to vacate and “relocate the iguana park”. Like now.

The entrance to the park and the colorful sign

Here’s why I’m writing: I am 1. a huge fan of Calvin’s park, his relentless work to make it what it is today, and the huge focus on kindness to animals and kindness in general 2. I think it is SO important to keep Belize…well…Belize. Keep things in San Pedro special and authentic as more and more corporate entities (and could-be-anywhere) development comes to the island and 3. Ask for help. Because I am not a lawyer or an activist-organizer and Calvin needs help with this.

Restaurant Menu at Iguana Sanctuary

Note: No one is disputing BEL’s ownership of the land – I am hoping that with all of your help, we as a community and as a country can figure out the proper solution.

Note #2: BEL responded to this article just after it was published. Here is their statement/clarification of the situation.

“Thank you for taking the time to listen to the complete story as it relates to the Eco Iguana Corner.

As per our conversation, BEL remains open to dialogue with Eco Iguana Corner, as we have been since October 2022. We continue to offer the organization financial assistance for the safe and responsible relocation of the iguanas inhabiting our property in San Pedro.

This space will be used for upgrades to the San Pedro substation required to improve reliability and meet the fast-growing energy needs of our customers in the island of San Pedro.  We hope that together we can relocate the iguanas to a safe location and reaffirm our commitment to providing safe, reliable and sustainable energy solutions.

As a responsible media entity, we encourage the San Pedro Scoop to publish the full scope of the story so that your audience has a complete understanding of the situation. If you have any questions or need any clarifications please feel free to reach out to us.”

Green Igaunas on Ambergris Caye

We have two types of iguanas on the island – the wish willy or black iguana – that you see everywhere! Lounge on the beach, or around pools…these guys eat anything and everything from hibiscus flowers to bugs and their main predators seem to be dogs.

The green iguana is…unfortunately for him…a traditional dish and very tasty creature. They are often jokingly called bamboo chicken”. He/she eats only veg and is hunted throughout the country. When Calvin started this project, he said that you hardly saw them on the island…

Iguana clinging in tree

Some of the History: The Eco-Corner Iguana Park

Calvin Young owns the property that his gorgeous home is located on – he relocated to San Pedro as a teen from Belize City. So he’s been in San Pedro for over 30 years.

For a bunch of those years, he worked as a fisherman and one day, he and a friend found a green iguana out at sea. The iguanas are ,surprisingly, amazing swimmers – if they get scared, they torpedo into the water.

Calvin and his buddy released the iguana in the patch of mangroves beside his home – any area that was originally packed with trash and refuse.

Feeding time at the sanctuary
Feeding time at the sanctuary

In 2017, his home was burned down – by arson. Thankfully he and his young sons were not there at the time but it was a devastating loss. They set about to re-build and did it in a very traditional Belizean style. The result is almost as amazing as the iguanas. Maybe more so. The house is absolutely gorgeous.

Calvin's house

As two iguanas became 10…and then perhaps 100s…and people and tour guides began to visit – by boat and by land – the habitat that he was cleaning and maintaining for the iguanas expanded in a very big way.

Calvin says that he spoke to Mr. Chris Nunez – the former head of BEL – and had a verbal agreement about the use of the land. When management changed, he showed me copies two letters that he sent to BEL to discuss the continuation for use of the mangroves that were now cleaned, maintained and now teeming with iguanas.

The Current Iguana Sanctuary

To come into compliance with the rules for an official park and to gain official recognition from the Forestry Department, Calvin has done a number of things – during the COVID period and now. He installed restrooms, signs and has posted the rules for safety

Rules at the Park

He installed hundreds of feet of beautiful stick pathways…

Pathways at Sanctuary

He has built a docking area for boats to land and visit the park ont he lagoon side and a beautiful entrance of the road.

And in March of 2023, he finally signed the agreement with the Forestry Department of Belize.

MOU with the Foresty Department

100s of visitors came to the park each week in the busist months of this year. He showed me this visitor sign in (for those who choose to leave a note and their names).

This book was started in mid February 2023…

Guest book

And was full by April. Both sides of the book and the pages.

Iguana Corner Guest book full

This place is incredibly special, so unique and an oasis in a town that starting to get SO congested. This week, a sign went up for a CASINO on Middle Street – the heart of town and the very busiest part.

Casino sign on Middle Street

As more and more smaller, wooden traditional homes get razed and multi-story concrete buildings go up in their place, I don’t think we can afford to let this sanctuary go.

It is not only a top spot for visitors but it draws tourists into town during the day – maybe they also stop for ice cream or breakfast or lunch – and that benefits our entire community. As we ask visitors to pay more to visit Belize – more than many other Mexican and Caribbean vacations – it’s so important to show them what makes Belize SOOOO awesome. And so worth the extra money.

The reef, the people, the food and the wildlife. You guys know what makes Belize so special. That’s why you keep coming back.

What Can We Do To Help Calvin?

First – I want to get this out there! And that’s what this post is about.

Calvin is being asked to move the iguanas and move the park immediately. And I wanted to get this OUT IN THE OPEN – to tell you, the community and lovers of Belize about this problem because together, we find a solution.

And Calvin is struggling to do this alone. I get it! It’s overwhelming – I’m overwhelmed.

He is looking for support – is there anyone that can help him with speaking to BEL. And to our community leaders- our mayor and town council and area representative. And to the Belize Tourism Board – not to try to organize their very busy schedules, but I think this needs to be a top priority.

If we can all write messages of support and testimonials for your visit – please feel free to leave them on the comments on this post – but especially on my Facebook page where this is posted. This community is fired by Facebook. (Fortunately or unfortunately…it’s the way info speads in San Pedro)

Let’s do this to start…to let everyone know how important this park is to the community.

And I want to re-iterate that this mangrove patch is owned by BEL – and I certainly don’t know their plans with this area. But…I am hoping and praying we can come up with a solution so we can keep this incredibly unique spot – this patch of kindess and beauty and nature – in our community.

Thank you all! You know where you can reach me – and if you can reach out to Calvin – either in person or via his WhatsApp for support and suggestions and encouragment. Please do. Calvin Young at 501-670-8288

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  1. Craig Deist on May 27th, 2023 at 9:11 am

    Awesome issue. I can’t wait to come see this little corner of heaven.

  2. Sandy Lapp on May 27th, 2023 at 9:15 am

    OH NO!! Calvin is the sweetest person and so hardworking. His sanctuary is amazing and it breaks my heart that he’s having to move it and to have to do so immediately!!

    • Travis on May 27th, 2023 at 12:20 pm

      We were just there a couple of weeks ago. It’s such a beautiful undertaking. To see it destroyed would be heartbreaking.

      • Paulina Suazo on May 28th, 2023 at 6:59 am

        Calvin and his Sanctuary must to be there for ever!
        Government can help in this matter!
        Save the Mangrove and protect the originary animals of the island!

  3. Marilyn Walker and family on May 27th, 2023 at 9:20 am

    We visit the Iguana Sanctuary every year in July when we spend a week on the island. It would be a tragedy to lose this wonderful iguana habitat.

  4. Richard Wright on May 27th, 2023 at 9:34 am

    That can’t be moved – look at all the work he has done over the years to what was originally a trash pit. Please keep working to keep this from happening. Post the info everywhere so the whole community knows.

  5. David nah Daniel on May 27th, 2023 at 9:36 am

    I would love that they keep the eco iguana sanctuary as how it is now that’s the perfect place for kids I believe! , and for everyone because it attracts tourists and travelers to come and visit part of our Beautiful San Pedro belize.

  6. Cindy Carlson on May 27th, 2023 at 11:10 am

    If there is a space on Ambergris Caye to relocate this man and his group of Iguanas ,let’s hear it !? I know this can be accomplished ! Anything to preserve green space and wildlife MUST be carried out . Good luck Calvin.

  7. Rony A Mejia on May 27th, 2023 at 12:02 pm

    This is an awesome place to visit, sad to read this, it is impossible to relocate these animals from that habitat, I’ve live in San Pedro for 25years and trust me, these animals have been there way before. I don’t see how (B.E.L) “wants” to claim in such a rush. Maybe they see potential to make more income for themselves. I hope they reconsider and have some compassion, this is one of the places I recommend to tourists.

  8. Michelle on May 27th, 2023 at 1:06 pm

    Losing this attraction would be detrimental to San Pedro. Downtown is being overdeveloped. We need little attractions like this people are able to walk to and enjoy.

    This might be a starting point. How long has Calvin actually had possession/use of the land. Would BEL sell it to him? If BEL take possession, would they be allowed to destroy the mangroves? What does the environmental people say?

    Definitely need to get legal assistance.

    In summary, Belize does not recognize squatters. Belize has strict anti-squatting laws protecting property, unlike most Central American and Caribbean countries. The only way a squatter can claim title to property or easement of a property is upon proving to the Supreme Court of Belize that they have had uninterrupted possession of the Belize property for at least 30 years on National and Conveyed lands or for at least 12 years on Registered lands.

    • San Pedro Scoop on May 27th, 2023 at 2:52 pm

      It does seem like sitting down with BEL (and probably a lawyer) is the way to go. Lawyers are pricy here but this would be worth it!

  9. Linda Monschein on May 27th, 2023 at 1:51 pm

    No, no, no! This can’t happen! I visited Calvin’s awesome Iguana Foundation on my first visit to the island. It was at the top of my list to go back on my second visit this past February. Calvin himself is a national treasure, not to mention all he has created in that mangrove! Please find a way to preserve Eco-Iguana Corner Foundation!

    • San Pedro Scoop on May 27th, 2023 at 2:51 pm

      He is SO lovely. And it’s so amazing how much work he does back there. Something major every time I stop in!

  10. Laura Tomlin on May 27th, 2023 at 3:36 pm

    Oh my goodness, this is devastating to hear. I just went there in May and was so taken back on how tranquil and lovely it is back there. It’s an amazing place for the iguanas to be fed and taken care of and feel at peace. Not to mention a great place for school children to go and learn about taking care of animals and spending time in a peaceful place. we are already taking over so much of their land everywhere else it’s just a small slice of paradise still left for the animals and the people to cherish.

  11. Marina Karina on May 27th, 2023 at 5:30 pm

    So sorry to hear this news. Calvin has done a fantastic job with this space and it should be preserved at all costs. It’s a shame BEL can’t find a way to let him continue his valuable work there. I hope they’re not planning on cutting down the mangroves – isn’t that illegal?

  12. Christal Sandstrom on May 27th, 2023 at 6:02 pm
    Calvin took my children on a tour today with my mother! We have a home in Belize and when on the island love to visit the Iguana sanctuary. My mom suggested this organization. I sent a copy of this article to them. I hope it helps. If others contact the organization it may help as well. I included the link. Thank you for writing this article!

  13. Pauline McKee on May 28th, 2023 at 1:11 am

    Mr Calvin and Green Iguana Eco-Corner is such a lovely, relaxing attraction. We have taken all our visitors there and enjoyed the peaceful environment. Firstly do we know why BEL is requesting the Sanctuary move? Do they really need this small area of land right now for a specific reason? Or are they just moving along a resident who provides a great service to San Pedro, free of charge, to visitors.

  14. Lynette Dunn on May 28th, 2023 at 6:38 am

    We visited from the United States just last week. During our trip my only MUST see was this beautiful sanctuary. Praying for a solution and support from BEL not a continued request to vacate.

  15. Kay Peters on May 28th, 2023 at 7:06 am

    It would difficult to ‘relocate’ this amazing sanctuary and have it be the same. It is so well established I can’t image a distribution in the wildlife. Can the land be purchased from BEL? It saddens me to see a casino coming into the heart of San Pedro. All the new buildings, while it’s progress, is ruining the charm of the town.

  16. Bill Grant on May 28th, 2023 at 7:45 am

    Let’s get busy and come up with a winning solution.

    Winners never quit and quitters never win!!!!

    We have had countless guests leave our place and its often one of the highlights of their time here.

  17. Taylon Angelino on May 28th, 2023 at 8:55 am

    Oh no… This is sad news we love the iguana sanctuary! Belize must not turn into another Cancun tourist trap. I pray somebody has the legal skills to help this man and his sanctuary!

  18. Martha Steele on May 29th, 2023 at 10:19 am

    Pray pray pray. Calvin I’m willing to help anyway I can. Please keep us all posted !

  19. Morgan B on May 29th, 2023 at 1:14 pm

    I went there this April while visiting and we signed the book and thought the place was cool and has a lot if potential. I wish they got more funding than they do. It’s important to preserve and protect places like this.

  20. Gerry Gavin on May 30th, 2023 at 12:17 pm

    Awesome sanctuary a touch of tranquility in a crazy world. Calvin is a modern day saint and an inspiration as to what one man can do. I pray that he and the sanctuary survive we all need both.

  21. Donna Skwarto on May 30th, 2023 at 7:52 pm

    We love this place!!! It was the most amazing place on SanPedro. We went last year and was so surprised by its tranquility. San Pedro is so busy and different from where live in Belize it’s alot but this place brought me so much peace while I was there. hands down my favorite part of the island. Please BEL find a solution to not ruin this beautiful place