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Iguana Specialist Group
Volume 11 * Number 2 * Fall 2008
2008 Annual ISG Meeting
The Iguana Specialist Group will hold their annual working meet-
ing on 12-14 November 2008 at the White Oak Conservation
Center (WOCC) in the northeastern-most corner of Florida in
Yulee. This remarkable facility is not open to the public and we are
fortunate again to have them as our hosts. The last time we met at
WOCC was ten years ago in 1998 for the third annual meeting.
White Oak is exploring the possibility of becoming involved with
iguana conservation in a supporting capacity that involves their
staff and expertise. This will be a good opportunity to showcase
the broad range of our activities. For more information about the
center see: http://www.wocenter.org/
This meeting marks the inauguration of our new Co-Chairs Glenn
Gerber (San Diego Zoo) and Miguel Garcia (Puerto Rico DNR)
and new Deputy Chairs John Iverson (Earlham College) and Jan
Ramer (Indianapolis Zoo). On behalf of Allison and myself, we
want each of you to know what a pleasure these past eleven years
have been, leading this remarkable group and working with so
many of you on both a personal and professional level. We are
both very proud of all that the ISG has achieved since 1997, and
we look forward to many years of continued productivity under
Miguel, Glenn, John, and Jan.
Rick Hudson and Allison Alberts
Jamaican (left), Grand Cayman (below),
and Anegada (right) iguanas at San Diego
Zoo Conservation Research. These animals
are part of the ex-situ population managed
by partners in the AZA Cyclura SSP.
Photos by Jeff Lemm.
U .S. Captive Cyclura Updates A Significant
Births. Congratulations to the Indianapolis and
San Diego Zoos for recent hatches of Cyclura lewisi! In
June at Indy, four babies hatched after 77-78 days of
incubation to parents 238 and Stub-tail. Though they
haven't always been paired, this is the first successful
hatch for the 18-year old dam and 17-year old sire in
many years. At San Diego, a singleton hatched from
the pairing of 957 and 1075. This is the second clutch
for this young pair (three siblings hatched in 2007)
since being imported from Grand Cayman in 2005.
They are a welcome addition to the genetic diversity
of our population!
New Partner Zoos. The Association of Zoos and
Aquarium's Cyclura Species Survival Plan is pleased
to welcome three new zoos to the program. Fresno's
Chaffee Zoo and St. Louis Zoo are now raising juvenile
Jamaican iguanas which hatched at Indianapolis in
2006. Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo is also accumulating
husbandry experience by exhibiting a group of rhinoc-
eros iguanas previously living at St. Louis Zoo.
Recent Deaths. The Gladys Porter Zoo staff are sad
to announce the death of Pharaoh in late summer; he
was at least 25 years old. Pharaoh was a wild-caught
founder that came to the U.S., first to the Indianapolis
Zoo, in 1999. He was the father, grandfather, and
great-grandfather of many offspring at the Grand Cay-
man captive facility (230!), most of whom have been
released in the QEII Botanic Park and Salina Reserve.
The recent four hatchlings at San Diego are also from
Pharoah's pedigree. A charismatic and handsome
iguana, he will be sorely missed. Also in late summer,
one of the male Jamaican iguanas at San Diego Zoo
died suddenly. Necronsv revealed the cause of death
was an unusual case of heart failure resulting from
bleeding into the sac surrounding the heart. This male
was 14 and was imported from Kingston's Hope Zoo
as a two-year old.
San Diego Zoo Enhancements. Within a few weeks,
the Kenneth C. and Anne D. Griffin Reptile Conserva-
tion Center will be ready to house the colony of rock
iguanas at the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park. The
2,000 square-foot facility, designed primarily for the
captive propagation of Cyclura, is a temperature and
humidity-controlled facility with 20 adult enclosures,
a spacious kitchen/lab, and a hatchling rearing room.
Each adult enclosure consists ofa 6xl 0 foot indoor and
a 6x8 foot outdoor enclosure, containing Caribbean
plants, and three feet of substrate conducive to natural
nesting behavior. The juvenile room measures 10x20
feet and allows for numerous rolling cages and smaller
caging systems. The roof has a series of skylights allow-
ing ultraviolet exposure for the indoor spaces. Awaiting
their new home are 4.2 Anegada, 2.0 Cuban, 4.4 Grand
Cayman, and 0.2 Jamaican ignanas (male.female), An
additional pair of Jamaican and Anegada iguanas will
rotate on exhibit at the San Diego Zoo.
There was an error in the Cyclura Color
Variation report by John
Bendon, page 4, Winter
Newsletter 7(2), 2007. For
Mona Island iguana, males
are larger in size overall,
but females have more
protuding spikes and higher noses.
N ew Headstart Facility at Hope Zoo * A new
captive management facility designed to double
the capacity for headstarting Jamaican iguanas is under
construction at Kingston's Hope Zoo. The new 1440
sq ft facility consists of 12 cage units and will effectively
double the number of iguanas that the Zoo can accom-
modate. During the Species Recovery Planning meet-
ing in 2007, a new headstarting strategy was drafted
that called for the number of hatchlings brought in
from Hellshire each year to increase to 40 (versus the
previous 20). In accordance, the program would move
to a five-year headstart cycle whereby 40 would enter
the zoo each year and 40 would be released. To achieve
this goal, an additional facility had to be constructed.
To ensure that iguanas are large enough to release in
five years, the size of groups housed together will be
reduced to four to six animals per cage when they
reach age three (ideally 1.3 or 2.4, males:
females). This strategy is intended to reduce
competition and aggression and encourage
Construction got underway during
Summer 2008 and is expected to be com-
pleted soon. Funds were provided by the
International Iguana Foundation through
an grant from an anonymous donor.
Fort Worth Zoo
ISG Member Joel Friesch contributed his artistry to the
promotion of the Blue Iguana Cocktail contest.
Fundraiser Carded for Blue Iguana Programme.
Cayman Net News Online - July 31, 2008
Cayman Distributors is the latest company coming to
the assistance of the National Trust's Blue Iguana Re-
covery Programme, which brings about awareness and
raises funds to protect endangered Blue Iguanas.
One such initiative planned by both organisa-
tions is an official Blue Iguana Cocktail competition at
the Bed restaurant on the Seven Mile Beach on Sunday,
3 August, beginning at 2:00 pm. A panel of judges will
be on hand.
The winner's name will become part of the
cocktail's sale name for the season and will also be
granted the privilege of naming a hatchling Blue Iguana
for life. Cayman Distributors will bottle the spirits
components of the mix and sell the winner's Blue
Iguana Cocktail base to bars throughout the island.
All net profits from Cayman Distributors' sales of the
Blue Iguana Cocktail base will then be donated to the
Blue Iguana Recovery Programme, the organizations
said in a press release.
"What really impressed me was how everyone I
discussed this project with loved the idea and wants to
be a part of it. I believe it is everyone's moral responsi-
bility to help maintain the culture and integrity of this
beautiful island - that includes all creatures, great and
small," Kevin Paschke, of Cayman Distributors, said. "I
feel very lucky that Cayman Distributors and my sales
team might be able to help in some small manner."
The competition is open to
the public and has already attracted
interest from many of the island's
bartending staff. Candidates for the
winning Blue Iguana Cocktail must
use Cayman Distributors products
including Bols Blue Curacao.
"I defy anyone to visit the Blue
Iguanas and not fall in love with these
beautiful creatures. Ten years ago there
were only 25 left in the world. How
many people will be able to look back
in their lives and say I helped to ef-
fect something good worldwide?" Mr
Fijian iguanas (Brachylophus species)
Fijian Iguana Taxonomy and Update. A new species
of Pacific iguana was described in September 2008
from the central islands of Fiji (Keogh et al. 2008).
This makes three living Pacific iguana species, includ-
ing the Critically Endangered Fijian crested iguana
(Brachylophus vitensis) and the Lau banded iguana
(Brachylophusfasciatus: from Tonga and the Lau islands
of eastern Fiji). This work was conceived during the
2004 Iguana Specialist Group meeting in Fiji, when
Scott Keogh, Peter Harlow, and Robert Fisher got
together and realized that they could all contribute to
this project by pooling their DNA, morphological, and
distributional data for all the Pacific iguanas.
Their genetic and morphological analyses of
61 individuals from 13 Fijian islands suggested there
are actually three living kinds of Brachylophus iguanas,
not two as indicated in current taxonomy. The newly
described iguana species is called Brachylophus bulabula,
the Fijian banded iguana, and occurs on many of the
medium-large forested islands in central Fiji. Based on
morphological differences, the Tongan banded iguanas
were described as a new taxon, B. brevicephalus, by
Avery and Tanner in 1970 but were later synonymized
with the Fijian banded iguana B. fasciatus by Gibbons
in 1981. As the original B. fasciatus was described
from a specimen collected in Tonga, this name remains
unchanged for Tongan and Lau islands (Fiji) iguanas,
and the species from the central Fijian islands (e.g.
Kadavu, Ovalau) is given the new name ofBrachylophus
Other iguana work continues on Fijian igua-
nas. Suzi Morrison, PhD student from the Australian
National University, has completed her Fijian crested
iguana field work on Yadua Taba, and the first paper
(on reproduction) is under review. Other papers in
preparation include tropical dry forests ecology and
effects of Pacific rats and crazy ants on crested iguanas.
Clare Morrison, University of the South Pacific, and
her team of students and colleagues have completed
their crested iguanas diet and habitat use research, also
on Yadua Taba, and these projects are now published
or in press.
Left: Male Fijian banded iguana from Ovalau, newly
described as Brachylophus bulabula. Above: Female
B. bulabulafrom Kadavu. Photos by Peter Harlow
Recent Fijian Iguana Publications.
Harlow, PS, M. Fisher, M. Tuiwawa, PN. Biciloa, J.
Palmeirim, C. Mersai, S. Naidu, A. Naikatini, B. Tha-
man, J. Niukula, and E. Strand. 2007. The decline of
the endemic Fijian crested iguana Brachylophus vitiensis
in the Yasawa and Mamanuca archipelagos, western Fiji.
Oryx 41(1): 44-50.
Keogh, J.S., D.L. Edwards, R.N. Fisher, and P.S.
Harlow. 2008. Molecular and morphological analy-
sis of the critically endangered Fijian iguanas reveals
cryptic diversity and a complex biogeographic history.
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, B
Brazilian green iguana (Iguana iguana)
The Ecology of the Green Iguana (Iguana
iguana) in the Brazilian Pantanal. The aim
of the "Pantanal Iguana Project" is to gather
information on the basic ecology of the green
iguana (Iguana iguana). The project will exam-
ine their potential role as seed dispersers, their
importance in the food web, and the relation
between nesting sites and the flooding regime.
Habitat quality, density of iguanas, and nesting
sites are being examined through regular expedi-
tions and surveys throughout the Pantanal in both Mato
Grosso (since 2005) and Mato Grosso do Sul (since
2008). Stomach flushing and scat collection methods
are being tested and compared. We are receiving a lot
of advice and support from our ISG colleagues while
testing these methods. Micro-histological analysis of
vegetation matter found in the stomach or scats has
been successfully tested as an efficient method of iden-
tifying species consumed. In many areas, riverbanks are
being degraded due to cattle ranching or other human
activities. Are iguanas capable of dispersing seeds and
participating in the natural restoration of these areas?
Hydroelectric dams are being built north of the Pan-
tanal and are having an impact on the natural flooding
regime. Iguanas nest during the dry season only, when
rivers are at their lowest level. What impact will changes
in flooding regimes have on this species?
Morrison, C., T. Osborne, PS. Harlow, N. Thomas,
P Biciloa, and J. Niukula. 2007. Diet and habitat
preferences of the Fijian crested iguana (Brachylophus
vitiensis) on YaduaTaba, Fiji: implications for conserva-
tion. Australian Journal of Zoology 55: 341-350.
Morrison, C., G. Keppel, N. Thomas, I. Rounds,
and PS. Harlow. Critically endangered Fijian crested
iguana shows habitat preference for globally threatened
tropical dry forest. Pacific Science In press.
Although Iguana iguana is a widespread spe-
cies, very few studies have been conducted in Brazil.
There is a lot to be learned about and from this species.
Findings from this work will also contribute to propose
conservation measures for riverine habitats that are
key to many wildlife species in the Brazilian Pantanal
S Zilca Campos and Sandra Santos
Embrapa Pantanal, Corumba
Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Edinburgh
Ricord's iguana (Cyclura ricordi)
Isla Cabritos Field Report 1-15 April 2008. The
Indianapolis Zoo, in partnership with The National
Zoo of the Dominican Republic (ZooDom) and Grupo
Jaragua (a Dominican environmental NGO), recently
participated in an ongoing field research project on
endangered Ricord's iguanas (Cyclura ricordi) in the
Dominican Republic. The Indianapolis Zoo team
included Dr. Betsy Stringer (Eli Lilly Intern Veterinar-
ian), Renae Burks (Veterinary Technician), Dr. Jason
Williams (Nutritionist), Richard Searcy (Senior Keeper
- Deserts Biome) and John E. Wyatt III (Senior Keeper
- Deserts Biome). Dr. Gerard Garcia (ZooDom vet-
erinarian) and Dr. Laura Perdomo (Grupo Jaragua
veterinarian) also participated in all aspects of this
project. A local guide Mona (Lago Enriquillo Guides)
assisted with locating iguanas, dens, and food plants
during our stay on the island. Funding for the project
was made possible with generous grants from the Maine
Community Foundation and the American Association
of Zoo Veterinarians' Mazuri Fund.
The main goal of this project was to perform a
comprehensive population survey of Ricord's iguanas
(Cyclura ricordi) and rhinoceros iguanas (Cyclura cor-
nuta cornuta) on Isla Cabritos, an island within Lago
Enriquillo, a hyper-saline lake in the western region
of the Dominican Republic. In 2003, transects were
established running north/south every 500 meters
across the length of the island so that a long-term
population survey could be conducted. This year the
first of a ten-year survey of the iguana population on
the island began. A team of two people walked each
transect, using GPS receivers to determine their path
and mark iguana sightings. Dens, feral animals, and
scat were also noted. There were originally 26 transects
on the island, but three could not be walked due to high
water levels (the lake is -30 feet higher than it was five
years ago). During this year's population assessment,
the team saw a total of 18 Ricord's iguanas and nine
rhinoceros iguanas. This data will be analyzed with the
help of Jim Dine (Indianapolis Zoo volunteer) who is
using the data for his Master's thesis.
In addition to the population research, the team
continued biomedical assessments of the Ricord's igua-
nas on Isla Cabritos. Physical exams were performed on
captured iguanas, weights and measurements obtained,
and blood was collected for complete blood cell counts,
biochemistries, mineral panels, and Vitamin D analysis.
The Indy Zoo team on Isla Cabritos. Left to Right. Back:
Richard Searcy, Gerard Garcia, John Wyatt, Jason Williams.
Front: Renae Burks, Laura Perdomo, Betsy Stringer.
Animals were bead-tagged and microchipped for future
identification. Bead-tagging will allow park guides and
future researchers to better monitor the population.
In addition, health assessments, blood collection, and
microchip placement were performed on 29 captive
Ricord's iguanas at ZooDom in Santo Domingo, all
but five of which were hatched at ZooDom. The ages
of these iguanas ranged from five months to 30+ years
old. The data collected from these health assessments
are part of a larger study on the population's health.
A nutrition study was also initiated while on Isla
Cabritos. Both predetermined and novel food sources
were identified and collected with the assistance of our
local guide. Fecal samples were collected for dissec-
tion, to aid in determining potential food resources
through plant part identification. Samples of various
food plants were dehydrated in the field using a por-
table food dehydrator to inhibit nutrient degradation
and were subsequently stored for transport back to the
U.S. Approximately 13 plant species were theorized to
comprise the majority of the iguana's diet at the time
of collection. A samples of each has been shipped to
a commercial laboratory for determination of dietary
metabolites. The data obtained from this research will
be utilized for comparison with nutrient information
collected from diets fed to captive Cyclura in hopes of
developing nutrition protocols that more closely predict
actual dietary requirements for this species.
The Indianapolis Zoo staffwould like to express
their thanks to ZooDom, Grupo Jaragua, Lago En-
riquillo Guides, Maine Community Foundation, and
the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians' Mazuri
Fund. Without their assistance and support, this trip
would not have been possible. Also, working with the
local park guides and Dominican veterinarians remains
a critical part of our project; having community and
national support is vital to continuing our research.
It is important to note that this project supports the
IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Na-
ture), the Iguana Specialist Group, and the Ricord's
Species Recovery Plan. This trip was a continuation of
research started five years ago. The Indianapolis Zoo
will continue to send participants into the field in the
upcoming years to collect more data for the population
survey, biomedical assessment, and nutrition study. It
is our hope that work like this will help in the survival
of these Critically Endangered iguanas.
Jason Williams, Betsy Stringer, Renae Burks,
John Wyatt III, and Richard Searcy
(, Indianapolis Zoo
Allen Cays iguana (Cyclura cychlura inornata)
Research Update May and July 2008. This year was the
29th year of our studies of the Allen Cays iguanas in the
Bahamas and we captured a respectable 422 Allen Cays
iguanas during May (289 on Leaf Cay, 85% of them
recaptures; 114 on U Cay, 82.5% recaptures; 5 on Allen
Cay; and 37 on Flat Rock Reef Cay, 51% recaptures).
We have accumulated nearly 6000 iguana captures in
the Allen Cays over the past three decades!
The decline in numbers of large males on the
main beach areas of both Leaf and U Cay was again
evident this year; annual survivorship rates for large
males are less than 70%, well below long-term rates of
88-89%. Iguana sex ratios are becoming increasingly
female biased, presumably because of the disappearance
of large males. 136 sexable females and 126 sexable
males were captured on Leaf Cay, and 67 sexable fe-
males and 42 sexable males were captured on U Cay.
We believe that this loss of large males on both Leaf
and U Cays over the past eight years is attributable
to mischievous human activity and we hope to add
educational signage in the near future to help curb
Again this year we recorded the capture loca-
tion of nearly every iguana. Continuing the recent
pattern, most captures were made on the big west
beach of Leaf Cay which is the landing/tourist feed-
ing area (only -2% of the total island area). 68% of
the total 2008 captures were on this beach, 56% in
2005, and 47% in 2004. On U Cay, 75% of captures
occurred along or immediately adjacent to the north
beach where nearly all visitors land - a substantial in-
crease from the 35% rate in 2005. The attraction of
the iguanas to the feeding beaches is obvious, and our
concern about this pattern is increasing.
We have now recorded a total of 19 iguanas on
Allen Cay (including two recent introductions from
Leaf Cay) and we are confident that no more than 20
total animals occur on the cay. We have never seen
juvenile iguanas on the cay, presumably because of the
lack of nesting sites.
Above: Remains of three Allen Cay iguanas that died after being
trapped inside plastic drum that washed up on the beach. Photo
by Lynne Pieper. Right: Processing gigantic Allen Cay Iguana
Allen Cay during May 2008 fieldwork. Photo by Kari Schneider.
The iguana population on Flat Rock Reef
Cay (FRRC) now exceeds 100 iguanas, following the
introduction of several iguanas around 1996. In May,
we found four dead iguanas which is the first mortal-
ity we have verified on the island. After noticing a
distinct smell of rotting flesh along the east coastline,
we pinpointed the odor as emanating from a large blue
50-gallon plastic drum just above the high tide line.
When cut in half, the barrel contained three medium-
sized iguanas (14, 20, and 21 cm body length) in similar
states of decomposition. None of the animals were
marked and the precise cause of death was uncertain.
However, we speculate that the three iguanas may have
been using the drum as a retreat, and it may have been
moved by the wind or tide such that the iguanas could
not escape causing them to overheat and die. A very
unfortunate accident that demonstrates just one more
negative impact of humans and their products on the
While on FRRC in May, we excavated the
iguana nests that we had identified in July of 2007. We
found that the six nests had contained 24 eggs and 18
(75%) of these had hatched successfully. This compares
to seven nests identified in July of 2006 in which 24 of
30 eggs hatched and emerged (80%).
Kirsten Hines and I returned to FRRC from 12
to 18 July for our third year of nesting studies. Despite
hot temperatures (112�F maximum under our tarp in
the bush in mid-day!) and a storm with near hurricane-
force winds, we captured 56 iguanas (38 recaptures) and
located seven nests. Each nest was excavated, the eggs
measured, and reburied with a digital temperature log-
ger. Mean clutch size in this year's nests was 4.1 (range
3-5) which is similar to the six nests found there last
July (mean 4.0; range 2-5). We will re-excavate these
in May 2009 to determine nest success and incubation
For the sixth year (2002-2008, except 2006)
we visited Bush Hill Cay at the northern limit of the
Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park to census the intro-
duced population of Acklins iguanas (Cyclura rileyi)
there. We caught 80 iguanas: 29 males, 44 females,
6 unsexed, and one skeleton (14 new, 65 recaptures).
We have now marked a total of 293 iguanas on Bush
Hill and recorded 240 total recaptures.
John B. Iverson
Exuma Island iguanas (Cyclura cychlura inornata
and C. cychlurafigginst)
Health Assessment for Exuma Island Iguanas. The
primary goal of the 2008 Shedd Aquarium iguana
research excursion was to assess the impacts of tourist
visitation and food supplementation on endangered
Bahamian iguanas. Specifically, we investigated the
physiological parameters and behaviors of iguanas
(Cyclura cychlura inornata and C.c. figginsi) living under
different degrees of visitation pressure in the Exuma
Islands. Research was conducted with the assistance of
"citizen scientists" aboard the R/V Coral Reef II March
22-30, 2008. The research team worked on three
islands visited by tourists and two unvisited islands to
assess behavioral and physiological differences among
resident iguanas. The visited islands included White
Bay Cay (C.c. figginsi) in the Central Exumas, and Leaf
and U Cays in the Northern Exumas (Cc. inornata).
The two non-visited islands included North Adderly
and Noddy Cays (Cc. figginsi) located north of Lee
Stocking Island in the Central Exumas. We also visited
briefly an introduced iguana population on Leaf Cay
(Cc. figginsi) located north of Lee Stocking Island.
Dr. Trevor Zachariah performing white blood cell counts
in the mobile laboratory aboard the Coral Reef II.
Photo by Charles Knapp.
To assess behavioral and physiological differ-
ences between populations under contrasting visitation
intensity, we collected behavioral and morphometric
data along with blood samples. We used standard
flight distance analyses to document behavioral differ-
ences among iguana populations. Blood samples were
collected within three minutes of capture and divided
into vials for future genetic analyses and vials stored on
ice for physiological analyses. Immediately following
blood extraction in the field, approximately 0.1 ml of
blood was analyzed using portable i-STAT blood gas
analyzers with CG8+ cartridges to examine glucose,
sodium, potassium, ionized calcium, hematocrit,
hemoglobin, pH, partial pressure of carbon dioxide,
partial pressure of oxygen, total carbon dioxide, bicar-
bonate, base excess in extracellular fluid, and oxygen
saturation. On-board the Coral Reef II, we assessed
general physiology of animals between islands using
manual complete blood counts (CBC), total solids,
and packed cell volume. Plasma was collected from
blood and frozen for later analysis of stress hormone
levels (corticosterone), biochemical concentrations,
and nutritional parameters (e.g., vitamin A, C, E, and
D concentrations). We attempted to capture an equal
number of iguanas from prominent feeding beaches
and areas less visited by tourists.
All captured iguanas were measured for general
morphometrics and were sexed by cloacal probing for
hemipenes. Condition indices based on body mass
versus length will be used to compare values between
iguana populations. Sandra Buckner led the vegetation
team in conducting from three to four 100 meter cross-
island transects to record abundance and incidence data
of plant species from each island. These data will be
used to analyze potential differences in plant species
composition between islands. We collected scat samples
from each cay. Samples were dried on-board the re-
search vessel, weighed, and sorted for contents. The
data will be used to analyze potential diet differences
between main feeding beaches and island interiors, and
also between islands. Preliminary data demonstrate
that scats from Leaf Cay (Allen Cays) are often packed
solid with sand and dried to the consistency of a cement
pellet. We suspect these scats are caused by ingestion
of sand during mass tourist feeding events.
Preliminary analyses of the data reveal physi-
ological differences between islands. We are currently
applying for funding for further corticosterone and
l Charles Knapp
John G. Shedd Aquarium
San Diego Zoo
The Institute for Regional Conservation
Trevor T. Zachariah
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Above: A tourist boat from PowerBoat
Adventures arriving at the main beach on Leaf
Cay in the Allen's Cays. Right: More than 70
iguanas remain on the beach after the departure
of a tourist boat. Photos by Charles Knapp.
Grand Cayman iguana (Cyclura lewisi)
2008 has been a year of extreme highs and lows for the
Blue Iguana Recovery Program in Grand Cayman. The
following is edited from personal communication, Blue
Iguana Tales, and press releases mainly written by Fred
Burton and Samantha Hicks. For more details, please
Post-Murder Update. Since the violent crime result-
ing in the death of seven blue iguanas in May, public
concern remains high despite a lack of news from the
ongoing police investigation. A CI$16,000 reward
still stands for information leading to the arrest and/or
prosecution of the culprit(s). Soon after the slaughter,
the National Trust and the QEII Botanic Park have
been sharing the cost of a security guard to patrol the
park and the iguana facility after hours. With technical
assistance from Her Majesty's Prison at Northward, a
security camera surveillance system will be installed.
Supplies have been ordered and contractors are prepar-
ing to enclose the entire captive facility with high secu-
rity perimeter fencing. Thanks to expert veterinarian
care, adult males Archie and Billy are recovering well
from the severe injuries they sustained in the attack. We
are extremely grateful for the amazing generosity from
many donors in the wake of this event; their support
has bolstered the BIRP financially and emotionally.
New Potential Founders. Four 'new' wild blue iguanas
have come into the captive facility in recent months.
Two young animals, a 2-3 year-old female and a four
year-old male, were caught by BIRP staff and volun-
teers on the edge of the Queen's Highway adjacent to
the Salina Reserve. Neither had ever been tagged, but
their age leaves several possibilities open. They are
not likely to be offspring of the iguanas we released in
the Salina. However, they could easily be offspring of
iguanas that have dispersed after release in the QEII
Botanic Park. Alternatively, they may be offspring of
unknown survivors of the original wild population,
in which case these two may be potential founders.
Genetic analysis will be necessary to try and determine
which is most likely.
Less ambiguous in origin are two large adult
females too old to be offspring of any iguana we have
ever released and are certainly new potential founders,
bringing additional bloodlines into the captive breeding
program. The first was captured (bizarrely!) in Palm
Dale, George Town (downtown!), and is presumably an
escapee from illegal captivity. The second female was
observed by BIRP staff for over a week at Spotters Bay
in East End before being captured by a local man 4.5
miles west who found her in danger of a car collision.
Their color and scale pattern leaves little doubt they
are authentic lewisi (though again genetic analysis will
be necessary to reconfirm this).
Hatching Season. 2008 developed into an extraordi-
narily abundant year for hatchlings. Beginning with
Deborah, who was underground laying when her
mate Billy was attacked in early May, nesting peaked
a month earlier this year. Interestingly, the Sister Isles
rock iguana in Little Cayman also nested early. In the
hope of receiving a land grant for a new protected area
(see below), as many nests as possible were collected and
we are now raising over one hundred hatchlings! For
only the third recorded time (second in GC), a set of
twins hatched from the nest of a free-roaming female
in QEII Botanic Park.
Captive Facility Enhancements. Thanks to significant
sponsorship from local reinsurance company Green-
light Re, structural improvements have been made at
Seven Grand Cayman iguanas, whose lives helped establish the captive breeding program,
were brutally killed by vandals in May. Photo compilation by John Binns.
the captive facility. Two rainwater catchment tanks
were installed next to the facility shed, channeling rain
from the roof, and providing a reliable year-round water
supply. Additionally, a small solar power system was
installed to power a water pump and a 12-volt chest
refrigerator for iguana food.
A small tour assembly area was cleared and
surfaced with crushed rock and a comprehensive set
of full-color interpretive and donor recognition signs
were mounted throughout the facility. These durable
and graffiti-proof signs were designed by IRCF, manu-
factured by Fossil Graphics, and again paid for from
the Greenlight Re grant. The National Trust for the
Cayman Islands and QEII Botanic Park management
worked together to set up a simpler tour booking opera-
tion whereby visitors are able to buy their Blue Iguana
Safari tickets on arrival at the Park ticket booth, with
no need to book in advance.
An example of the new graphic
educational signs installed
throughout the captive facility.
Design by John Binns.
I on .IU.lII IgUARM
U @U IKBIgLI I
11111 ToI MOM 11 1
Staffing. With Chris Carr's involuntary departure last
year due to local immigration policies, long-term BIRP
volunteer John Marotta has come on staff as Warden,
and has just been joined by James Pedley, bringing the
staffing at the captive facility back to two. Sponsorship
from local law firm Walkers for a second year running
is helping, along with tour income, to cover their
salaries. Former BIRP employee Samantha Hicks is
back in Grand Cayman and is generously volunteering
days when she is not required at her paid job, helping
Fred with administrative aspects of the program. An
array of local volunteers (including regulars Stu Petch
and Gary Redfern) help out at the captive facility
and "Team Blue" international volunteers, recruited
through the IRCF website, continue to cover much of
our fieldwork effort.
Salina Reserve Restoration. Fieldwork is advancing
well towards our target of annual population monitor-
ing of iguanas now living in the Salina Reserve. Cali-
brated against extremely detailed and arduous census
work in summer 2007, we have adapted a distance
sampling / mark-recapture technique which is yielding
comparable results at a much lower effort. We are now
testing the technique's effectiveness at various times of
year, beginning to capture information about last year's
natural recruitment rate, and describing the pattern of
dispersal away from release sites. By the end of this year
we hope to have a standardized monitoring technique
in place. Field results currently suggest the Reserve may
ultimately hold -400 blue iguanas, heavily dependent
on our deploying sufficient numbers and size ranges
of artificial retreats. IRCF is assisting in manufactur-
ing options for a long-lived, modular concrete retreat
design that may prove key to achieving this goal. Our
minimum target for a viable wild population of lewisi
is estimated at 1,000 individuals. Most of the fund-
ing for the Salina restoration effort continues to come
from UK-based donors through the Durrell Wildlife
Conservation Trust and supplemented by donations
Land Issues and Potential EU Grant. Meanwhile at-
tention in Grand Cayman is once again heavily focused
on protection of a new xerophytic shrubland reserve,
both for the blue iguanas (as the flagship) and the other
endangered and unique plant and animal species char-
acteristic of that ecosystem. After many years of BIRP
and Department of Environment work on a EU grant
application, shared between the Cayman Islands, Turks
& Caicos and the British Virgin Islands, and a major
effort by the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Fo-
rum, a financing agreement was signed in Brussels last
December. In the Cayman Islands, this has potential
to fund a visitor center for the BIRP, hopefully based
at a new shrubland nature reserve. The financing also
may offer modest seed funding towards purchase of
land for protection. A local steering committee has
been formed for this project, an EU consultant-led
project feasibility review is underway, and administra-
tive start-up is beginning. The biggest difficulty so far is
arriving at a realistic protected area proposal in the face
of rapidly escalating land prices, new road corridors,
and private grant and commercial leasehold proposals
for Crown Land.
Bryan, J.J., G.P. Gerber, M.E. Welch, and C.L. Stephen.
2007. Re-evaluating the taxonomic status of the Booby
Cay Iguana, Cyclura carinata bartschi.
Copeia 2007(3): 735-740.
Coti, P. and D. Ariano-Sanchez. 2008. Ecology and tra-
ditional use of the Guatemalan black iguana (Ctenosaura
palearis) in the dry forests of the Motagua Valley, Guatemala.
Iguana 15(3): 142-149.
Goetz, M. 2008. The Cayman Sister Isles iguana project:
identifying the conservation needs of Cyclura nubila cayma-
nensis. Iguana 15(1): 12-19.
Iverson, J.B. 2007. Juvenile survival in the Allen Cays rock
iguana (Cyclura cychlura inornata).
Copeia 2007(3): 740-744.
J.S. Keogh, D.L. Edwards, R.N. Fisher, and PS. Harlow.
2008. Molecular and morphological analysis of the Criti-
cally Endangered Fijian iguanas reveals cryptic diversity and
a complex biogeographic history. Philosophical Transactions
of the Royal Society, B. 363(1508): 3413-3426.
Knapp, C. 2007. Ecology and conservation of the Lesser
Antillean iguana (Iguana delicatissima).
Iguana 14(4): 222-225.
Knapp, C.R. and A.K. Owens. 2008. Nesting behavior and
the use oftermitaria by the Andros iguana (Cyclura cychlura
cychlura). Journal of Herpetology 42(1): 46-53.
Knapp, C.R. and A.K. Owens. 2008. Cyclura cychlura
cychlura. Attempted predation. Herpetological Review
Knapp, C.R. and S. Valeri. 2008. Iguana delicatissima.
Mortality. Herpetological Review 39: 227-228.
MacDonald, E.A., N.M. Czekala, G.P. Gerber, and A.C.
Alberts. 2007. Diurnal and seasonal patterns in corticos-
terone in the Turks and Caicos iguana (Cyclura carinata
carinata). Caribbean Journal of Science 43: 266-272.
Maria, R., J. Ramer, T. Reichard, P. Tolson, and M. Chris-
topher. 2007. Health assessment of free-ranging Ricord's
iguanas (Cyclura ricordi) in the Dominican Republic. Jour-
nal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine 38(3): 414-419.
Owens, A.K., and C.R. Knapp. 2007. Cyclura cychlura
cychlura. Scoliosis; Kyphosis. Herpetological Review
Pdrez-Buitrago, N., M.A. Garcia, A. Sabat, J. Delgado, A.
Alvarez, O. McMillan, and S.M. Funk. 2008. Do headstart
programs work? Survival and body condition in headstarted
Mona Island iguanas Cyclura cornuta stejnegeri. Endangered
Species Research 6(1): 55-65.
ISG Newsletter Allison Alberts
Published by the
Zoological Society of San Diego
Applied Animal Ecology Division
15600 San Pasqual Valley Road,
Escondido, CA 92027
Applied Animal Ecolog
Zoologcal Societd of San Diego