Cayman islands: trying to save blue iguanas

This 2016 video is about Cayman Island blue iguanas and other Cayman island wildlife.

It says about itself:

This mini-documentary explores the wildlife and conservation of the Cayman Islands, a UK Overseas Territory in the Caribbean comprising Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. All three islands are home to a staggering diversity of wildlife that occurs in tropical dry forests, mangrove forests and vast seabird colonies.

In this film, we encounter fiddler crabs, snakes, land hermit crabs, exquisite orchids and many unique birds that occur nowhere else on Earth.

The Cayman Islands are also home to two unique iguanas, both of which are critically rare. Grand Cayman’s blue iguana is so called for its striking blue colouration. The blue iguana was predicted to become extinct, but conservationists acted just in time by setting up a very successful breeding programme, and the species has been saved for the future. Off shore, diverse coral reefs are renowned across the world, and are the site for immense grouper spawning aggregations – including the largest remaining aggregation events left in the Caribbean.

From the BBC:

Conservationists are celebrating success in a captive-breeding programme that aims to save the world’s rarest lizard from extinction.

Three eggs laid by a Grand Cayman blue iguana that had been released into a nature reserve on the Caribbean island have successfully hatched.

Since 2004, 219 captive-bred iguanas have been released in an attempt to save the crtically endangered species.

The wild population of blue iguanas is expected to be extinct within 10 years.

“The animals we released in 2004 are now coming into sexual maturity,” said Matt Goetz, deputy head of herpetology at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

“This year, we were delighted to discover three nests within the nature reserve,” he added.

The Jersey-based trust is one of the six permanent partners of the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme, which has been operating since 1990.

The scheme releases iguanas into the island’s Salina nature reserve when the animals are about two or three years old, once they are large enough not to be eaten by snakes.

“We can now confirm that all three eggs in one of these nests have hatched, which marks a major step forward in securing the survival of these animals,” Mr Goetz said.

“Hopefully, the eggs laid at the other sites will be following suit soon.”

Habitat threat

Blue iguanas (Cyclura lewisi) are classified as critically endangered by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).

The blue iguana (Cyclura lewisi) was once king of the Caribbean Island, Grand Cayman. Weighting in at 25 pounds, measuring over 5 feet, and living for over sixty years, nothing could touch this regal lizard. But then the unthinkable happened: cars, cats, and dogs, along with habitat destruction, dethroned Grand Cayman’s reptilian overlord. The lizard went from an abundant population that roamed the island freely to practically assured extinction. In 2002, researchers estimated that two dozen—at best—survived in the wild. Despite the bleak number, conservationists started a last ditch effort to save the species. With help from local and international NGOs, the effort, dubbed the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, has achieved a rarity in conservation. Within nine years it has raised the population of blue iguanas by twenty times: today 500 wild blue iguanas roam Salina Reserve: here.

Bahama islands anolis lizards: here.

European common lizards: here.

Komodo dragon’s virgin birth: here.

Ecomorphology of Anolis lizards of the Choco′ region in Colombia and comparisons with Greater Antillean ecomorphs: here.

Fossil animals and plants of the Bahamas: here.

The name Hurricane Hole might conjure images of howling winds and crashing seas. In fact, this collection of bays on the southern shore of St. John, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, is a sheltered sanctuary whose crystalline waters offer safe haven for young fish: here.

9 thoughts on “Cayman islands: trying to save blue iguanas

  1. Jan 24, 2007, 7:19 AM EST

    5 Komodo Dragons Born at British Zoo

    Associated Press Writer

    MANCHESTER, England (AP) — A British zoo announced Wednesday the virgin birth of five Komodo dragons, giving scientists new hope for the captive breeding of the endangered species.

    In an evolutionary twist, the newborns’ eight-year-old mother Flora shocked staff at Chester Zoo in northern England when she became pregnant without ever having a male partner or even being exposed to the opposite sex.

    “Flora is oblivious to the excitement she has caused but we are delighted to say she is now a mum and dad,” said a delighted Kevin Buley, the zoo’s curator of lower vertebrates and invertebrates.

    The shells began cracking last week, after an eight-month gestation period, which culminated with the arrival on Tuesday of the fifth black and yellow colored dragon.

    The dragons are between 15.5 and 17.5 inches and weigh between 3.5 and 5.3 ounces, said Buley, who leads the zoo’s expert care team.

    He said the reptiles are in good health and enjoying a diet of crickets and locusts.

    Other reptile species reproduce asexually in a process known as parthenogenesis. But Flora’s virginal conception, and that of another Komodo dragon earlier this year at the London Zoo, are the first time it has been documented in a Komodo dragon.

    The evolutionary breakthrough could have far-reaching consequences for endangered species.

    Captive breeding could ensure the survival of the world’s largest lizards, with fewer than 4,000 Komodos left in the wild.

    Scientists hope the discovery will pave the way to finding other species capable of self fertilization.

    While it wasn’t unusual for female dragons to lay eggs without mating, scientists understood they were witnessing something important when they realized Flora’s eggs had been fertilized.

    DNA paternity tests confirmed the lack of male input, although the brood are not exact clones of their mother.

    Parthenogenesis – where eggs become embryos without male fertilization – had only been noted once before in a Komodo dragon. Genetic tests showed that Sungai, a resident of London Zoo, was the sole parent to offspring last April.

    © 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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