Yes, there really is a man named Henry Lizardlover. Born Henry Schifberg, this 56-year-old lover of lizards has shared his California home with as many as 60 for over 25 years. “They have different faces, bodies and behaviors,” said Henry, who has named each one.
Henry has 21 lizards now—Schneider skinks, tree skinks and Chinese water dragons. He no longer has iguanas. Some died after 20 years and others he found loving homes for. He’s brought lizards to lectures in schools, libraries and museums and has appeared on TV in Japan, France, Germany, Spain, Thailand and the U.S. “The foreign shows paid nicely,” said Henry.
So what does he do with the lizards? In addition to raising them with love and care, Henry poses them in lizard-size lounge chairs. They remain statue-still and he photographs them, sells greeting cards and writes lizard care manuals.
“There are some that are better behaved than others,” said Henry. “It’s the calm ones that are the easiest to work with.” He brings his lizards to Urth Café in West Hollywood every afternoon and shares the posed reptiles with intrigued passersby.
Why? Because he likes to.
“I’ve learned a lot from the lizards and met people from all over the world. Total strangers became lifetime friends. I met a lot of really nice girls too. One I should’ve married but I blew it—I was too caught up with my books and TV shows and pursuing what interested me most.”
Lizards are vegetarians who should be fed small leaves and pieces of fruit. They don’t chew their food. They’ll swallow whatever you give them. Never give human foods if you want your lil guy to live a long healthy life. See Henry’s website for loads of lizard care instruction.
Iguanas can grow to 6 feet. “Most of that is tail, though,” Henry said. “There are a few types of lizards that can make good pets but I warn people that iguanas are a total gamble.” Other types of lizards get frightened easily and won’t make good pets.
Pet shop workers will tell you what to feed a lizard but most don’t know they need direct sunlight for vitamin D and that without it their bones can break. “People buy a reptile basking light thinking that’s all they need,” said Henry. “These lights sell for $15 but don’t do anything more than a regular 50-cent light bulb.”
Some pet stores carry fluorescent UVB lights that simulate sunlight but most are weak and only effective if the lizard is 10 inches away and these lights must be replaced every six months.
“It’s important to remember they’re wild animals,” Henry said. “Lizards are quite capable of doing you harm. Especially iguanas.” Female iguanas tend to be safer but there’s no way to determine the sex until at least one year.
Male iguanas can be tame but they have a hormonal shift during breeding seasons and can become enraged when they see another male iguana. Hyped up with hormones they can easily confuse humans with other male iguanas.
“Then you have a very powerful animal,” Henry said, “They can leap—fly off furniture—right into your face and want to tear your face off.” They would kill their own son during a hormonal rage.
Despite the risks, many pet owners love their lizards. Abby Venzor, NYC animal activist and social worker raved about her pet iguana. “She was completely domesticated and roamed the house climbing onto people and eating out of strangers hands. I got the craziest looks from guests when they walked into my home and saw a 5-foot reptile on the couch. She’d lie on my cats back, they were best friends.”
Most of us know Geico’s Gecko from commercials. Leopard Geckos make good pets for beginners. They’re docile and friendly, have minimal care requirements, only grow to 11 inches and they’re inexpensive.
To rescue one of the many abandoned lizards visit: AdoptAPet.com.
To learn more about Henry Lizardlover and how to care for pet lizards visit his website.
Video of Henry’s lizards.