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The Grand Cayman Blue Iguana

Found only on Grand Cayman, the Blue Iguana is Grand Cayman’s largest native land animal. Once numbering in the tens of thousands, Blues numbers declined so by 2001 fewer than 25 individuals were estimated to remain in the wild. Fortunately the National Trust for the Cayman Islands and Blue Iguana Recovery Programme have managed to raise awareness in recent years and help these magnificent creatures to up their numbers and ensure their survival in the wild.

A Grand Cayman Blue Iguana enjoying the sun

 

Interesting Facts About The Grand Cayman Blue Iguana

  • When the Blue Iguana is cold, it turns a dark grey as this is good colour to absorb heat efficiently from the sun. Once the Blue Iguana has warmed up, it does not want to overheat and so turns a distinctive powder blue as this colour does not absorb heat well.
  • Blue Iguanas are vegetarian and like to forage for fruits, flowers and leaves. Studies show the seeds that pass through a Blue Iguana germinate more rapidly that those that do not. They are an important means of distributing seeds to new areas and essential for maintaining the balance between climate and vegetation.
  • They can grow up to 5 feet in length, over 25 lbs and they never stop growing! However, growth rate does slow down as the Blue Iguana gets older.

 

Decline Of The Grand Cayman Blue Iguana

Unfortunately it is us humans who are a major problem for the Blue Iguana. They used to live on the coast, laying eggs in the sand on the beach. When the first settlers started to arrive they too preferred these areas and as time passed, the Blue Iguanas were forced to retreat inland which made nesting harder. Humans also brought dogs, cats and rats which have all played a part in the Blue Iguanas demise. However, some Blue Iguanas proved resilient and found new habitats for foraging and nesting and in 1990 the Trusts Blue Iguana Recovery Programme was established to support research, captive breeding, habitat protection and public education to help save this unique creature from extinction.

 

The Blue Iguana Recovery Programme

The programme started with just 30 Iguanas from the wild and zoos. With the ongoing support from sponsors, programme partners and many dedicated volunteers, the long term goal of the trusts Blue Iguana programme is to restore a wild population of about 1,000. Essentially this means protecting habitat for the Blue Iguana and alleviating unnatural pressures and threats on them to aid in the rapid recovery in numbers. 

Captive breeding serves three main functions:

  • Young Blue Iguanas can be released to help boost existing wild populations and establish new wild populations.
  • Producing young Blue Iguanas in captivity that can be nurtured to adulthood to ensure the continuity of breeding for future conservation.
  • Generating a stock of genetically managed animals which can establish backup captive populations in zoos overseas.

Conservation of Blue Iguanas in the wild requires active management into the future. To sustain this activity, a range of commercial activities generates the funding required, while an ongoing education and awareness effort ensures continued involvement and support by the local community.

A Grand Cayman Blue Iguana takes a stroll

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