animal lover, Tree Hugger
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The Revival of The Blue Iguanas

CAT_1875 small                                            Photo Credit: Doug Bell

The United Nations General Assembly designated 3rd March as World Wildlife Day, to celebrate the world’s wild fauna and flora (United Nations). In honor of World Wildlife Day, I would like to dedicate this post to raise awareness for the Blue Iguanas, a national beauty and icon of the Cayman Islands. The Blue Iguana Recovery Program, is dedicated to the conservation and preservation of the Blue Iguanas.

The once critically endangered species, is beginning to thrive in the wild once again. There was a time when we almost lost our beloved Blue Iguanas, thankfully they are moving out of danger from becoming extinct. Currently, the population of Blue Iguanas has reached over 900, showing promise of reaching a target goal of a population of 1,000 Blue Iguanas. The care and dedication of staff members of the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, along with the success of captive breeding has contributed to the progress in the restoration of the Blue Iguana population. The captive breeding program was developed in 1990, in an effort to save the Blue Iguanas. One of the main purposes for the captive breeding program is to “generate young iguanas which can be released to boost existing wild populations, and to establish new wild populations in protected areas” (Blue Iguana Recovery Program). Whilst, Blue Iguanas continue to be released back into the wild, to roam their natural habitat, some caution must be reserved. This summer another 50 Blue Iguanas are anticipated to be released into the wild, but these newbies, like their predecessors, face many dangers when entering into the wild.

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Photo Credit: Doug Bell

Blue Iguanas quickly adapt once released into the wild and thrive. However, their positive transition into the wild is tainted by looming dangers, which pose a threat to the Blue Iguanas, such as: feral cats and stray dogs. By the age of two, Iguanas are mature enough to venture into the wild, specifically protected areas such as the Salina Reserve, a 625-acre nature reserve. As previously stated, one of the main threats to the Blue Iguana is feral cats and dogs, as they are known to wander into the protected nature reserves and attack the iguanas. This is problematic, as it interrupts the chances of a steady population growth. The increase of the Blue Iguana population is dependent on the survival of the young iguanas, as well as to ensure a wild population which is genetically diverse. The Blue Iguana Recovery Program, aims to maintain at least twenty different family lines in the wild. One way to solve this ongoing issue is to encourage the public to practice pet responsibility. For instance, a pet owner can do their best to ensure that their dog is on a leash when be taken for a walk, and to keep any gates on their property closed to reduce the chances of their dog(s) wandering off their property and into the nature reserves. In regard to cats, choosing to keep them indoors will increase their longevity and reduce the risk of iguanas been attacked by cats. Another option, is to spay and neuter pets, this will help decrease the number of feral cats and dogs roaming the streets, without a home. Proper pet ownership, is beneficial to all parties involved, and promotes the safety and wellbeing of both domesticated pets, and the iguanas in the wild. Additionally, a massive undertaking of fencing-in the existing protected areas will allow for measures of safety to be implemented to ensure that feral animals cannot come in contact with the iguanas. Though this may be a rather extreme solution, it will require a lot of planning and funds. It may not be a project feasible at this time, but worth considering.

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Photo Credit: Doug Bell

Another way to help keep iguanas safe is by reporting the siting of an iguana so that the staff of the Blue Iguana Recovery Program can safely relocate the iguana to the protected areas they inhabit.

From another point of view, iguanas and their habitat are threatened by over development. As the island continues to take on new development projects, subsequently natural habitats of endemic species of wildlife and plants are greatly reduced and destroyed. Therefore, as a means to ensure the safety and future of Cayman’s endemic species and wildlife, purchasing land near to, and surrounding the natural reservations is a viable solution. This allows for the expansion of natural reservations, giving the iguanas more space to roam freely and safely. Furthermore, it reduces the eradication of our natural eco-systems. Iguanas are known to be territorial, however, they do spread out.  Thus, the existing protected areas is not enough to sustain them. Again, such a project will require a considerable amount of funding but worthwhile.

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Photo Credit: Doug Bell

A little secret about the Blue Iguanas is their vital role in sustaining our natural eco-system. Blue Iguanas simply put are excellent fertilizers. As vegetarians they enjoy eating leafy greens and lots of fruit. Once they deposit seeds of berries and fruits back into the soil, essentially they have greatly helped in replenishing our natural environment. At the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, the Iguanas have contributed to the numerous fruits trees which have sprung up, such as mango trees. Seemingly, many of these trees are fruitful. Though there is currently no scientific report stating that Blue Iguanas are responsible for replenishing endemic plant species; nor can one disprove that they contribute to sustaining endemic plant species. The fact remains, Blue Iguanas have their role to play in the circle of life, and maintaining the balance of nature.

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Photo Credit: Doug Bell

A Blue Revolution

Together we can all play a role in helping protect the future of the Blue Iguanas. The Blue Iguana Recovery Program welcomes generous donations from the public and corporations. Individuals, children and corporations have the opportunity to show their love for Blue Iguanas by sponsoring one, in kind, the donor is given the opportunity to name the iguana they have sponsored. Sponsorship and donations allow the Blue Iguana Recovery Program to continue their efforts in the preservation and conservation of the Blue Iguanas. Primarily, funds raised are allocated to covering overheads, such as staffing and purchasing technology to assist in research. The staff of the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, do an incredible job everyday, caring for the iguanas, providing educational tours for schools and visitors, and conducting valuable research. A huge thank you to the entire staff and volunteers at the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, for their care and dedication for our majestic Blue Iguanas. If you are considering making a donation in honour of the Blue Iguanas please contact the Cayman Islands National Trust. Please visit their website for more information, click here.

The Blue Iguanas may no longer be in danger of becoming an extinct species, thanks to their exemplary handwork and commitment of the Blue Iguana Recovery Program staff and volunteers, but they still depend on all of us to ensure that their future is bright. Evidently, there has been a great shift from saving the Blue Iguanas to now maintaining their steady population. This does not mean we can rest on our laurels, collectively we can strive together to ensure that Blue Iguanas are never faced with the threat of extinction again. Our fight now, is to maintain a steady and thriving population of Blue Iguanas. There is still a wealth of knowledge to be learned about our beloved Blue Iguanas.

For more information about the Blue Iguana Recovery Program please visit their website, click here.

Show support and stay connected with updates on the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, join them on Facebook, click here.

Read and learn about the Blue Iguanas, pick up a copy of Fred Burton’s A Little Blue Book, available at the Botanic Park Gift Shop.

Be one with nature, visit the Blue Iguanas at the Botanic Park.

 

Happy World Wildlife Day! 

 

Resources:

Fred Burton

http://www.blueiguana.ky 

http://www.un.org/en/events/wildlifeday/

Photo Credit: Doug Bell

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