by Lauren Kane (VM16)
Blue Iguana (Cyclura lewisi)
The Grand Cayman Blue Iguana (Cyclura lewisi) is endemic to the island of Grand Cayman and is one of the longest-lived species of lizards. Fewer than 15 animals remained in the wild by 2003, and this wild population was predicted to become extinct within the first decade of the 21st century. The species’ decline is mainly being driven by predation by feral pets (cats and dogs) and indirectly by the destruction of their natural habitat as fruit farms are converted to pasture for cattle grazing. Since 2004, hundreds of captive-bred animals have been released into a preserve on Grand Cayman run by a partnership headed by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, in an attempt to save the species.
The Blue Iguana is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List. In late 2012, the Blue Iguana Recovery Program estimated that the wild population had risen to approximately 750 individuals, and the IUCN subsequently downlisted the species from critically endangered to endangered. The Blue Iguana Recovery Program’s conservation strategy involves generating large numbers of genetically diverse hatchlings, head-startingthem for two years where their chance of survival in the wild is high, and using these animals to rebuild a series of wild sub-populations in protected, managed natural areas.This is accompanied by field research, nest site protection, and monitoring of the released animals. Restored sub-populations are already present in two non-contiguous areas—the Salina Reserve and the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park.
For more information, please check out, http://www.blueiguana.ky/