Endangered species: Grand Cayman blue iguana crawls back from brink of extinction
Wednesday, February 26, 2014, 6:17 PM
In 2002, only a dozen Grand Cayman blue iguanas roamed the eastern interior of the Grand Cayman. The dismal population is the end result of several devastating events, most of them a direct result of human activity.
A large chunk of this species' already-small habitat has been turned into highways, fragmenting the iguanas and diminishing birth rates.
Feral cats and dogs, introduced into the area by humans, has preyed on this species -- further shrinking the population.
While the figures were, and still are, bleak the Grand Cayman blue iguana is crawling back from the brink of extinction.
Some would even say the species is helping to write the book on successful conservation: Though still endangered there are now more than 750 blue iguanas in the wild, thanks to aggressive conservation strategies that include habitat protection, captive breeding and release, continued research and public awareness.
All of this has resulted the species' status being downgraded from "critically endangered" to "endangered".
"Although ... human-caused pressures have led to the Grand Cayman blue iguana being the most endangered iguana on earth, we have found that this is one species that can be saved," writes The Blue Iguana Recovery Programme.
"[We are] making remarkable strides: there is great hope for the future of the blue iguana, and its extraordinary wild habitat."
This incredible, dragon-like species can measure up to 5 ft. in length and weigh up to 30 lbs, making it the largest native species in the Grand Cayman and the largest lizard in the western hemisphere.
They spend most of their time alone -- staying close to the rock hole they call home while dining on fruits, flowers and leaves.
Mating season occurs between May and June, and females can lay up to 21 eggs -- although most of today's blue iguanas are being bred in controlled conditions.
Every blue iguana that is released into the wild is fitted with a string of coloured beads for quick identification. They're also microchipped and carefully monitored by a team of experts.
It will be some time before this species is removed from the endangered species list entirely but if current efforts are any indication, it's only a matter of time before the Grand Cayman blue iguana reclaims its numbers in the wild.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP
- Sponsor an iguana through a reputable cause.
- Volunteer with a Grand Cayman blue iguana recovery program.
- Spread the word about blue iguanas and their plight.