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Wildlife Watching

Wildlife abounds on Aruba. Look for the cottontail rabbit: the black patch on its neck likens it to a species found in Venezuela, spawning a theory that it was brought to the island by pre-Columbian peoples. Wild donkeys, originally transported to the island by the Spanish, are found in the more rugged terrain; sheep and goats roam freely throughout the island.

About 170 bird species make their home on Aruba year-round, and migratory birds temporarily raise the total to 300 species when they fly by in November and January. Among the highlights are the trupiaal (which is bright orange), the prikichi (a parakeet with a green body and yellow head), and the barika geel (a small, yellow-bellied bird with a sweet tooth - you may find one eating the sugar off your breakfast table). At Bubali Bird Sanctuary on the island’s western side, you can see various types of waterfowl, especially cormorants, herons, scarlet ibis, and fish eagles. Along the south shore, brown pelicans are common. At Tierra del Sol golf course in the north, you may glimpse the shoko, the endangered burrowing owl.

Lizard varieties include large iguanas, once hunted for use in local soups and stews. (That practice is now illegal). Like chameleons, these iguanas change color to adapt to their surroundings - from bright green when foraging in the foliage (which they love to eat) to a brownish shade when sunning themselves in the dirt. The pega pega - a cousin of the gecko - is named for the suction pads on its feet that allow it to grip virtually any surface (pega means “to stick” in Papiamento). The kokodo blauw (whiptail lizard) is one of the species that is unique to the island.

There are two types of snakes that found only in Aruba. The cat-eyed santanero isn’t venomous, but it won’t hesitate to defecate in your hand should you pick it up. The poisonous cascabel is a unique subspecies of rattlesnake that doesn’t use its rattle. These snakes live in the area between Mt. Yamanota, Fontein and San Nicolas.

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