Mo has been called many things - "a menace", "a monster, "a threat" - but first and foremost, he is an IGUANA.
Specifically, Mo's character is modeled after a Common Iguana, or Green Iguana (zoological name: Iguana iguana). These lizards are common as pets and are prevalent across Latin America and the Caribbean. As a children's character, an iguana is exotic and colorful enough to engage interest, but still familiar (and fun to pronounce!). Mo can transition from page to page, from scaly and frightening, to friendly and lovable! Iguanas themselves are not particularly threatening by their nature (technically, they are herbivores), but they also carry an element of danger and unpredictability. Mo and all reptiles are diverse and unique creatures!
I hope Big Mo speaks for environmental stewardship -
the notion that we share a collective ecological responsibility.
As it turns out...
While researching for Mo's future of storytelling, I happened upon a creature that just may be the perfect character to introduce in a Mo "series": the Blue Iguana!! (Cyclura lewisi)
These iguanas are known for their striking blue color, and are cherished as a symbol of national pride on their native island of Grand Cayman. Unfortunately, they also hold the title of 'rarest iguana on Earth', and were only recently removed from the IUCN Red List's Critically Endangered designation (ie. just one step from Extinct). They are now classified as Endangered, a sad status to share with other threatened species like the Bengal Tiger and Giant Panda. Blue iguanas have lost their coastal habitat to human settlement, and are regularly killed by feral, non-native predators like dogs and cats, which these iguanas have not developed an evolutionary fear of. Even Mo and other "invader" Green Iguanas compete with the Blues by devouring their natural environment (sound familiar?) and reproducing at a rapid pace. Although Blue Igs are endemic to the Cayman Islands, the hordes of Green Iguanas have stronger "fight or flight" instincts against predators, gained from their collective memory as pets.
There is a bright side, though!
Thanks to the efforts of the partners of the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme (BIRP), captive breeding and release of "head start" iguanas has brought the population of this stunning species up to nearly 750 individuals, and growing. To find out more, click below:
"When asked ... why I should concern myself so deeply with the conservation of animal life, I reply that I have been very lucky and that throughout my life the world has given me the most enormous pleasure. But the world is as delicate and as complicated as a spider's web. If you touch one thread you send shudders running through all the other threads. We are not just touching the web, we are tearing great holes in it." - Gerald Durrell, Founder of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, a partner of BIRP