Iguana Specialist Group newsletter (ISG newsletter)
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West Indian Iguana Specialist Group

I Newsletter

IUCN - The World Conservation Union
Species Survival Commission

Volume 3, Number 1, Spring 2000

In This Issue

0 News & Comments ..................... 1
0 Taxon Reports............................ 4
I delicatissima /l iguana ..... 4
C. n . n u bila ........................... 6
C. c. carinata ......................... 7
0 Recent Literature ..................... 14
& WIISG contact information ....... 14


WIISG Newsletter
Published by the
Zoological Society of San Diego
Center for Reproduction of
Endangered Species
P.O. Box 120551, San Diego, CA 92112

Senterfor Reproduction ofEndangeredSpecie,
Allison Alberts
Tandora Grant

News & Comments
The following press release comes from Peter Murtha, United States Attor-
ney, U.S. Department of Justice, Southern District of Florida.

March 7, 2000 News Release
Thomas E. Scott, United States Attorney for the Southern District
of Florida, Lois J. Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment
and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, Jorge
Picon, Resident Agent in Charge for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in
Miami and Frank Figueroa, Special Agent in Charge of the United States
Customs Service in Miami, announced that Phillip David Langston, 47, of
Naples, Florida pled guilty today to conspiring to violate U.S. and interna-
tional wildlife protection laws and U.S. Customs laws. Langston entered
his plea of guilty to the lead count of an indictment handed-up by a grand
jury in Miami on December 21, 1999, charging him with trafficking
during the period of November 1994 through July, 1995, in reptile species
that originated in Haiti and the Peruvian Amazon and that are protected
under an international treaty known as "CITES", the Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora, which is
implemented in the United States through the Endangered Species Act.
Sentencing is scheduled for May 26 before United States District Court
Judge Norman C. Roettger. The conspiracy charge, a felony, is punishable
by up to 5 years in jail and up to a $250,000 fine.
In entering his plea of guilty, Langston admitted to conspiring to
smuggle and selling a large variety of reptile species protected under CITES
and/or foreign law in the Southern District of Florida, including caiman
lizards, dwarf caimans, frog-headed turtles, galliwasps, giant tree frogs,
Gibba turtles, green anacondas, Haitian boas, Haitian dwarf boas, Haitian
vine boas, mata mata turtles, red-tailed boas, rhinoceros iguanas, twistneck
turtles, white-lipped mud turtles and yellow-footed tortoises. Langston
specifically acknowledged selling approximately 60 rhinoceros iguanas,
native to Haiti (as well as the Dominican Republic), which is a species
currently threatened with extinction, and listed on Appendix I of CITES,

the highest level of protection available under the
treaty. Many of the other species he trafficked in
including the anacondas, boas, caiman lizards, dwarf
caimans and yellow-footed tortoises are protected
under Appendix II of CITES out of concern that
unless trade in this species is strictly regulated they too
could come under threat of extinction. The govern-
ment and the defendant have agreed that the retail
market value of the reptiles listed in the conspiracy
charge was at least $120,000.
Langston further admitted to the Court that as
part of his scheme to smuggle reptiles into the United
States he established a "breeding farm" in Peru for the
purpose of making it appear that wild-caught Amazon
specimens, protected under U.S. law and Peruvian law,
were instead captive-bred.
Under the terms of his plea, Langston, in
addition to any imprisonment and fine imposed by the
court, must surrender his U.S. Fish and Wildlife
import-export license. Langston also surrendered to
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service five Cuban rock
iguanas, Cyclura nubila nubila, a CITES Appendix I
species, which were transported in violation of the laws
of Puerto Rico.
Mr. Scott commended the work of Special
Agents Chip Bepler of the United States Fish and
Wildlife Service and George White of the U.S. Cus-
toms Service for their work on the case.
The United States was represented in this
matter by Thomas Watts-FitzGerald, Chief of the
Environmental Crimes Section at the U.S. Attorney's
Office and Peter J. Murtha, Senior Trial Attorney,
United States Department of Justice, Wildlife &
Marine Resources Section.

Alilen's, Leaf, and U Cay's, Bahamas * John
Iverson and 11 Earlham College students recensused
the Allen's Cay iguana populations during March 19-24,
2000 and captured 423 iguanas, 299 of which had been
previously marked. Among the oldest iguanas captured,
four adult females are profiled in the table.

Date Estimated Age Time Elapsed New Growth
1980 10 years 20 years 10 cm
1982 14 years 18 years 6 cm
1982 No estimate 18 years 0 cm
1986 18 years 14 years < 1 cm

It is clear that these lizards frequently live beyond 30
years in the field, but it may take another 20 years' work
to calculate longevity more precisely. Next summer's
(2001) field work will focus on the nesting biology of
these animals.

-if John Iverson
Earlham College
j ohni@earlham.edu

NT ecker Island Update * In October 1995 four
hatchling Anegada iguanas (2.2), were relocated
from Guana Island to Necker Island, British Virgin
Islands (Lazell 1995). The animals were cage-reared
until October 1996; when one escaped and the remain-
ing three were released. All four survived and estab-
lished territories where they could be regularly found
and observed. On May 1, 1999, I caught and released
the larger of the two females, the previous escapee, and
noted that she appeared heavily gravid. On October 1,
1999, a hatchling iguana was seen on Necker Island.
Although I have not been back to Necker personally,
the staff there report young iguanas (they believe
certainly more than one) are frequently seen. All four
original founders, now adults, are also regularly seen.
Lazell, J. 1995. Natural Necker. The Conservation
Agency Occasional Paper 2:1-28.

^' James Lazell
The Conservation Agency

The recently approved IUCN Guidelines for
the Placement of Confiscated Animals are now
available on the SSC website.


M ona Iguana Video Available * AN ISLAND
Life of the Mona Iguana, Cyclura stejnegeri). Filmed
and produced by Thomas Wiewandt with the help of
the BBC, this video was televised in England as part of
David Attenborough's Wildlife on One series and in
the U.S. in David Suzuki's The Nature of Things. It
was also broadcast in Canada, Germany, Japan, New
Zealand, and Sweden. This film was shown at the
Jamaican Iguana Population and Habitat Viability
Assessment workshop in Jamaica in 1993. This is
Tom's first motion picture film and it was awarded a
CINE Golden Eagle and received Runner-up for Best
Professional Film at the 1982 International Wildlife
Film Festival. VHS copies are now available for the
first time in English, for home or institutional use.
Formats available are NTSC (for U.S., Canada, Japan,
most of the Caribbean and South America), PAL (W
Europe, Australia, China), and SECAM (E. Europe,
Russia, Middle East). Running time: 25 min.
Price is $20 ($5 of which will be allocated to
maintaining the WIISG photo archive), plus $6 for
shipping & handling). Add a $2 surcharge for PAL or
SECAM formats. Please inquire about shipping
charges for overseas orders. Checks should be made
payable to Wild Horizons Publishing, Inc. VISA/MC
orders accepted; add $1 for this convenience. Be sure
to include your shipping address and phone number.

To order, contact:
Thomas Wiewandt
Wild Horizons Publishing, INC.
P.O. Box 5118
Tucson, Arizona 85703 U.S.A.
tel. 520-743-4551; fax. 520-743-4552 or

For VHS copies in Spanish:
contact Elaine Hopgood of Audio
Visuales del Caribe, Inc.

N ew Research in Cuba * As part of a project
investigating the fauna of the Montecabaniguan
Wildlife Refuge in Las Tunas Province, Cuba, I hope to
work with Roberto Rodriguez Soberon and Professor
Vicente Berovides to initiate ecological studies of C.
nubila. Much of the initial focus of our work in the
area will be on American crocodiles, but we are trying
to involve personnel from the Empresa Nacional de
Flora y Fauna and the University of Havana on
projects on other species as well, and we have targeted
the iguanas as a prime candidate. The area is an
extensive mangrove swamp associated with the mouth
of the Cauto River, and appears to support a good
population of iguanas living in the mangroves. During
a visit to the area in June 1999, I saw nubila basking
on mangrove limbs over the water, looking like green
iguanas, and they seem to be using the same beaches as
crocodiles to nest. We will probably start with basic
ecology studies: mark-recapture, habitat use, popula-
tion structure and perhaps diet analysis (from scats). It
will probably be very interesting comparing the ecol-
ogy and behavior of mangrove animals to those found
in more typical Cyclura habitat. I will return to the
area in June-July and hopefully will have some more
news then.

&W John Thorbjarnarson
Wildlife Conservation Society

Typical Cuban iguana habitat: Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
Photo by Allison Alberts

Taxon Reports

Lesser Antilles Iguana delicatissima and
Iguana iguana

During a seven week summer 1999 stay in
Guadeloupe and Martinique, I studied the Iguana
iguana population of Fort-de-France (Martinique), the
Iguana delicatissima population of Ilet Chancel
(Martinique), and also visited some of the Iguana
populations of Basse-Terre, Grande-Terre, and Petite
Terre (Guadeloupe).

Iguana iguana in Martinique
The Iguana iguana population of Fort-de-
France lives in Fort Saint-Louis, a military and naval
base. These iguanas are not indigenous to Martinique.
They are said to come from a little zoo which was
active in the sixties. The iguanas originally came from
les Saintes or from French Guyana and were caught by
Pare Robert Pinchon. We did not know if they were
released or if they escaped. Tissue samples were taken
in 1994 and given to Mark Day for genetic analysis.
Apparently, these few individuals founded a wild
population on Fort Saint-Louis, where they sometimes
forage at human rubbish sites.
I visited this population in April 1994. A very
rapid estimation based on a direct count yielded an
estimate of about 500 adults and subadults. As an
example, on the wall facing Baie des Flamands (100 m
long), there were at least 120 adults and subadults. In
summer 1999, I visited Fort Saint-Louis for seven days
in order to more precisely estimate the population.
Each iguana seen was video recorded. No more than
50-60 iguanas (adults and subadults) were found,
although some hatchlings were also seen. The decline
of the population appears to have several causes:
> In the fort, there are numerous dogs and cats. I
have been told by military personnel that they
have seen dogs killing adults and cats eating
> A number of trees (Tabebuia, Mangifer,
Albizia) were cut for military purposes. These
trees are used by iguanas to perch, to bask, to
hide and to feed.
> Numerous construction projects are in

>- The rubbish piles are now destroyed.
> One of the most important nesting sites was a
slope facing Baie des Flamands; this sunny and
well drained place is now grassy.

This last point seems to be critical, and the
development of the herbaceous vegetation may be one
of the main causes of the iguana's decline on Fort
Saint-Louis. All the iguana nests that I observed were
dug in bare soil. I know from a local resident in
Guadeloupe (Trois Rivieres) that Iguana iguana were
known to lay their eggs in a pile of argillaceous earth,
but since this pile has now been covered with herbs,
the site has been deserted. Further exploration of this
site showed that iguanas used another bare place in the
vicinity of this pile, and that there were eclosions on
8/20/99. Thus, I believe that in Fort Saint-Louis the
main cause of the ten-fold decline in iguana numbers
is the loss of a key laying site.
This iguana population was not mentioned by
Schwartz and Henderson (1991). In my opinion, the
drop in numbers is a positive development. In the
nineties, the population had grown to such a high
level that iguanas left the fort and were beginning to
move into town. Some of them were captured by
residents who brought them back from their gardens,
and some were found at Lamentin, a few kilometers
from Fort Saint-Louis. These iguanas are a potential
danger, through hybridization and competition, for
the Iguana delicatissima population on Martinique. In
Martinique there are only four populations of this
Lesser Antillean endemic that are fully protected: Anse
Cdron, Morne Capot, Ilet Chancel, and between Anse
Couleuvre and Grand Riviere.

Iguana delicatissima in Chancel (Martinique)
The Iguana delicatissima population of Chan-
cel is doing well. With the help of Georges Tayalay,
we continued tagging animals this year. One female
tagged in August 1997, on the most important laying
ground of the island, was observed two years later in a
mangrove about 1 km from her original capture site,
close to another laying place. This anecdotal informa-
tion suggests that females possess a nest fidelity
(possibly to their birth place), and that they do not
necessarily use the closest site to their non-breeding
home range.
As in 1997, some clutches were excavated by
other females and the eggs destroyed by crabs, birds,

sheep, ants and exposure to sun. In Chancel, the
laying season begins in June and continues through
August. During the next dry season (April 2000), we
will try to increase the area of one of the two most
important sites. One of the sites is situated at the limit
of a plateau and its slope. There, the females dig their
nests only in the bare soil. If we compare the topogra-
phy of this site in 1994, 1997, and 1999, it is clear that
the iguanas dig new nests at the boundary between the
bare rocky slope and the short grass plateau, progres-
sively shifting the limits of the site. The females always
begin to dig their nests in the bare area, as opposed to
the grassy area. Our project will create an additional
20m2 of laying surfaces in the grassy area. To accom-
plish this, we will remove the grass, unearth the big
stones that prevent females from digging, and replace
these with a mix of sand, earth, and small stones. We
do not plan to manipulate any of the surfaces currently
used by iguanas.

Iguana delicatissima in Guadeloupe
There is only one reference to Iguana
delicatissima in Grande-Terre (Bois Eusebe), made by
Lazell (1973). Since I began my work, I have been
unable to find this species on Grande-Terre except for
one individual captured in La Desirade and released in
Gosier where Iguana iguana is quite abundant. I know
of one other introduction of Iguana delicatissima from
Petite Terre in Saint-Frangois, but was unable to find
any of these individuals. Last summer, during survey
work for my book, "Atlas des Amphibiens et Reptiles
de 1'Archipel Guadeloupien: une Histoire Naturelle"
(to be published by Paris Museum in June 2000), I
visited a mangrove patch near Saint-Frangois. I was
fortunate enough to observe three iguanas. The first
individual ran away rapidly, and I was unable to
determine if it was delicatissima or iguana. The general
appearance was iguana, but the tail was nearly plain
and the head lacked the enlarged subtympanic plate.
With pictures of the two species, I questioned local
residents about whether they could recognize the
species in the mangrove. Some told me that these
iguanas are the same as in les Saintes (Iguana iguana),
while others said that they are the same as in Petite
Terre or la Desirade (Iguana delicatissima).
During further exploration of the mangrove, I
saw an old typical Iguana iguana female. Five minutes
later, I discovered a superb Iguana delicatissima on the
edge of the mangrove; it was a beautiful dark male.

Taking into account the remoteness of the location, I
believe that this Iguana delicatissima population is a
natural one which is now in competition and hybrid-
ization with Iguana iguana. All of the south coast of
Grande-Terre from Le Gosier to Saint-Frangois in now
inhabited by Iguana iguana. In summer 2000, I hope
to locate additional relictual populations of Iguana
delicatissima in Grande-Terre.
I also visited les Iles de la Petite Terre, where
the population is doing well. A new population
estimate was made in 1998 by Cabanis for the Associa-
tion pour I'Etude et la Protection des Vertebres des
Petites Antilles (AEVA). After a decline to 6000
individuals at the beginning of 1996 due to cyclones
(see Breuil, 1999, WIISG Newsletter 2(1): 7), the
population is now about 10,000 adults. New observa-
tions on well-defined sites suggest that this number
could be even higher. As in the Chancel population,
the nesting sites are overdug by females with significant
egg loss. A new path was created in 1995 in the
thickets on the reserve. Although at that time, there
were no nests there, by 1999, females were using the
sandy and sunny parts of this path for nesting. That
they did not lay in the shady thickets close to the path
highlights the importance of sun exposure for the
choice of nesting sites.

Michel Breuil
Paris Museuiq f Natural History

Adult male Iguana delicatissima; St. Eustatius, Lesser Antilles
Photo by Glenn Gerber

Cuban iguana (Cyclura nubila nubila)

Current conservation programs for several
species of West Indian iguanas are directed toward
removal of feral mammals to allow locally depleted
iguana populations to recover. However, no baseline
data exist on expected rates of population recovery, or
on the relationship between iguanas and their habitat
in this process. Because iguanas are important seed
dispersers for many native plants, restoration of natural
ecosystems depends on establishment of a stable
relationship between iguanas and the native vegetation
on which they feed.
In 1992, the San Diego Zoo's Ecology &
Applied Conservation Division initiated a long-term
field study of a population of Cuban iguanas inhabit-
ing the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay. Our
intentions were to gain understanding of the basic
biology of these iguanas, as well as to develop practical
conservation strategies for population recovery. For
three years, we collected baseline data on population
density, social behavior, reproductive hormone cycles,
home range size, and daily and seasonal activity pat-
terns. In early 1995, approximately 60,000 Cuban
and Haitian refugees arrived unexpectedly at Guan-
tanamo Bay. Extensive areas of natural habitat were
graded along the coastline to construct temporary
camps, resulting in severe disturbance to natural
ecosystems. At the height of the refugee crisis, the dry
tropical forest surrounding our study site was reduced

to less than 5% of its former extent, and we could only
locate a single adult male in the area. With funding
from the Zoological Society of San Diego's Conserva-
tion Fund, we have been studying how rapidly and to
what degree the iguana population has been able to
achieve its former dimensions, and how the natural
process of recolonization of the area by iguanas corre-
lates with recovery of vegetation at the site. This
research provides an ideal opportunity to document
the extent to which Caribbean dry tropical forest
ecosystems are resilient enough to recover from severe
disturbance, and to study the ecological role that
iguanas play in the recovery process.
By mid-1999, 15 male and nine female adult
iguanas had recolonized the site. For both males and
females, the relationship between body mass and body
length has remained comparable to that of healthy wild
iguanas, indicating that iguanas have been able to
forage effectively at the site following disturbance.
Health screening studies carried out in collaboration
with zoo pathologists suggest that the overall condition
of iguanas at the site is improving. Two enzymes that
were highly elevated in May 1998, creatine phosphoki-
nase and glutamic oxaloacetate transaminase, had
decreased by 19% and 54%, respectively, by early
1999. Elevated levels of both enzymes are known to be
associated with injuries, particularly those associated
with muscle tissue, as well as infection. Although we
will continue to monitor them, other biochemical
indicators of health in the recovering population
appear to be normal relative to healthy
wild iguanas.
In order to document revegeta-
tion of the site, we have been measuring
changes in the biomass of plant material
over time. Although the total biomass of
plants at the site continues to grow, the
rate of increase has slowed in 1999 (1.05
m3/month) compared to 1998 (1.52 m3/
month). A key question in the recovery
process is the role that iguanas may play in
regeneration of native vegetation. Studies
on related species have shown that the
time to germination is shorter in seeds that
have passed through the digestive tract of
iguanas. To test whether there is further

San Diego Zoo s Tandora Grant and JeffLemm measure seedlings produced
from seeds contained in Cyclura nubila scat. Photo by Allison Alberts

10 -



"0 4


0 50 100 150 200 250
Days post germination

Mean growth rates of 290 wild grape (Cissus trifoliata)
seedlings grown from seeds contained in Cuban iguana scat
(solid circles) and seeds dissected from Cuban iguana scat
(open circles). Seeds remaining in iguana scat produce
seedlings which grow twice as rapidly (.035 cm/day) as seeds
dissected from iguana scat (.017 cm/day).

enhancement of plant regeneration by iguanas, we
conducted an experiment with 21 iguana scat samples
collected at our study site. Half of each scat sample
was dissected and all seeds removed, while the remain-
ing half was left intact. In collaboration with the zoo's
horticulture staff, we planted the dissected seeds and
the seeds contained in intact scat under identical
conditions. While neither the time to germination nor
the total number of seeds germinating differed be-
tween groups, growth of seedlings produced from seeds
left in iguana scat was significantly enhanced com-
pared to seedlings originating from seeds dissected
from iguana scat. Thus it appears that iguanas may
benefit plant communities in several important ways,
including facilitation of germination, provision of
nutrients to developing seedlings, and dispersal of
seeds into new microhabitats.

dIf Allison Alberts
San Diego Zoo

Turks and Caicos iguana
(Cyclura carinata carinata)

The Big Ambergris Cay iguana relocation
project being conducted by the Department of Envi-
ronment and Coastal Resources, TCI, The Conserva-
tion Agency, and the Denver Zoo continues to
progress well in its second year. The iguanas on Big
Ambergris Cay are currently being displaced by an
expansive development project there. The island is
populated by an estimated 15,000 Cyclura c. carinata
(Gerber 1998). The developer's planned build-out
leaves only small areas of the cay undeveloped and it is
his desire and that of the DECR that as many of the
iguanas as possible be moved before they are killed.

Relocation-Site Selection
In January 1999 we examined potential targets
for iguana translocation. Because the iguana is fecund,
we assumed that all islands currently supporting
iguana populations would be at carrying capacity
under the existing environmental conditions on each.
We therefore opted to select among islands without
iguanas. We found that most islands without iguanas
were either extremely small (< 0.1 ha) or supported
populations of feral cats or grazing ungulates (goats,
cattle, donkeys, etc.). Islands were either too small to
be suitable (iguana populations there would be small
and vulnerable to extinction) or islands needed resto-
ration and management before they became suitable.
In view of these realities, Long Cay, Caicos
Bank, part of the Admiral Cockburn Nature Reserve,
stood out as the best candidate for a relocation site. It
is large (111 ha), and could support a large iguana
population (thousands). The drawback was the
population of feral cats that lived there.
Cyclura c. carinata formerly lived on Long Cay
(Schwartz and Thomas 1975), and had been seen
there by John Iverson in visits between 1974 and 1977
(pers. comm.), but had been since extirpated, presum-
ably by cats. Rats and mice (Rattus rattus and Mus
musculus) also were in evidence on the cay but we did
not consider them a threat to the iguanas as they occur
on most islands in the TCI including those with
healthy C. c. carinata populations. There were no
other feral mammals on Long Cay, although goats and

pigs had ranged there in the recent past. We decided
to restore Long Cay to suitable iguana habitat through
cat eradication and focus the iguana relocation there.
As our work progressed we considered that we might
relocate individuals to nearby smaller islands as well.

Long Cay Cat Eradication
We chose to conduct an intensive cat poison-
ing campaign on Long Cay using 1080 (sodium
monofluoroacetate) with follow-up trapping as
needed. We collaborated closely with experts Dick
Veitch (Papakura, New Zealand) and Charles Wigley
(Tull Chemical Company, Oxford, Alabama) who gave
us guidance on dosage and handling. 1080 was
chosen because it has been used, along with trapping,
to successfully eradicate cats on islands in New
We carefully considered possible effects of the
poison before conducting the cat removal work. Long
Cay was an unusual island that lent itself to use of
1080: the island had no iguanas, no native mammals,
few scavenging birds, and no nesting colonies of
scavengers. We judged that it was possible, but un-
likely, that incidental bird deaths would occur. There
were few scavenging birds (birds likely to hunt for
scraps of fish in the bush, e.g., gulls, terns) on Long
Cay; there are birds that use the habitat but no nesting
colonies of scavengers.
Cats are extremely susceptible to minute
quantities of 1080, 20 times more susceptible than
humans and 10-30 times more susceptible than birds.
Sub-lethal doses are metabolized and excreted. This
chemical is broken down into non-toxic by-products
by bacteria in soil or water. In freshwater the com-
pound is 70% degraded after 24 hours. We also
planned and equipped ourselves for supplemental cat
trapping if it was necessary after the poisoning effort
was concluded. Work was conducted in July 1999.
Though the cats seemed localized in certain
parts of Long Cay, we set up bait stations that allowed
us to systematically distribute the poison baits uni-
formly over the 3.5 km long island. Bait stations were
flagged with surveyor's tape, numbered, and spaced 25
m apart in parallel lines a maximum of 50 m apart.
The northeast section of the island is 50 m or less in
width and therefore had only one line of bait stations,
wider mid-sections of the island had 4 parallel lines of
bait stations, and so on, depending on the width of the

Fish chunks (Clupeidae) or whole minnows
(Atherinidae) injected with 0.009 ml of 1080 in a 22%
solution was used as bait. Most of the bait was placed
or skewered on branches overhanging clearings or trails
at a height of about 15 cm. This placed the bait at cat
nose-height out of the reach of land crabs. On the
beach, or in areas without vegetation, bait was placed
on inverted plastic cups (15 cm high) that were filled
with sand to prevent them from being displaced by
wind. Thorough and even coverage of Long Cay
required more than 460 bait stations. Bait was laid at
the stations between 1600-1900 h to minimize expo-
sure to heat and scavenging birds. Old baits were
collected when fresh bait was deposited daily for 5-6
days. At the end of the week, leftover toxin and
contaminated items were diluted to non-toxic levels
and disposed of or burned, respectively.

Cats Gone, Iguana Relocation Begins
In November 1999, we examined the island
carefully for tracks or signs of cats. In three days of
surveys no evidence of cats was seen anywhere on the
cay. No follow-up trapping appeared necessary. This
result allowed us to proceed with the next step: iguana
In mid-November 1999, the first iguanas, a
test group of 25, was taken from Big Ambergris Cay to
Long Cay. Survivorship of this small group, which
included age classes susceptible to cat predation (75 g),
would provide a second test for presence/absence of
cats. If this translocation was successful, future groups
to be relocated would be larger (200 individuals) and
would consist primarily of larger animals (500-1200g).
Between November 1999 and January 2000,
during our field sessions and weekly radiotracking, no
cat tracks were seen on Long Cay and survivorship of
radiotagged iguanas was 100%. On 23 January,
however, we found tracks from a cat that one of us
(Wesley Clerveaux) confirmed had been recently
released on Long Cay by its owner from South Caicos.
We succeeded in trapping and removing the cat from
Long Cay.
This event reinforced the necessity of increas-
ingly involving the community of South Caicos and
reaching everyone with the message that unwanted
animals should not be dropped off on uninhabited
cays - particularly Long Cay. DECR patrols and
courtesy visits to vessels cruising the area are underway,
and informational signs for Long Cay have become a

priority. One sign has already been
placed in the village. The DECR
is purchasing signs for all Long
Cay beaches which are slated to be
in place by June.
We have also begun pro-
duction of a series of informational
public announcements for local
cable TV. In this regard we were
lucky enough to have the services
of a professional filmmaker,
Vladimir Bibic. He donated time,
equipment, and materials and has
completed two public service
announcements to be aired in May
2000. We have also received a
donation for a "Meet Mr. and Mrs.
Iguana" campaign, which will be
an ongoing program, conducted by
local naturalists, to acquaint schoolchildren first-hand
with their endemic iguana.
During January and February 2000,
radiocollared iguanas in the test group of 25 animals
were recaptured and radiocollars were removed. Ani-
mals were weighed and measured. All appeared
healthy and each had established one or more burrow
sites. Two collars malfunctioned (stopped transmit-
ting), however, and were not recovered during this
session. We will attempt to recapture the iguanas and
remove the collars as the weekly monitoring continues.
We captured and moved 208 iguanas from Big
Ambergris to Long Cay during the January-February
field session. We attempted to collect as many females
as possible because the first group of 25 animals
appeared to be male-biased (16:9). We took all low-
crested, 250-500g, iguanas we encountered with the
hope that they would prove to be female. We took
animals from the same area on the north end of the cay
in three separate missions. In spite of our focus on
targeting females, probing (an internal check for
presence/absence of hemipenal pouches using thin
lubricated rods) demonstrated the group again ap-
peared heavily male-biased (154:54). Most individuals
we captured with what one might consider "female
qualities" (low crests, small femoral pores, no visible
hemipenal bulge or pouch) were judged by probing to
be immature males. We have found that we cannot
distinguish young males from females without prob-
ing. We suspect that our catch is representative of the

Adult male Cyclura carinata carinata, Turks and Caicos Islands.
Photo by Glenn Gerber

population in the area we hunted and, if probing is a
reliable way of determining sex in C. c. carinata, reflects
a true male-biased population in this area of Big
Ambergris. A sex-bias would be extremely interesting
as the existing literature on Cyclura carinata popula-
tions, including the Big Ambergris population, reports
1:1 sex ratios. We will track these data closely as we
continue to capture iguanas on the cay in different
areas and, if the trend continues, will be preparing a
manuscript describing this apparent anomaly later this
year. We hope to double-check our results using
In order to monitor the animals on Long Cay,
relocated iguanas are permanently marked with passive
integrated transponders. The sex of all iguanas is
confirmed by probe, animals are weighed, snout to
vent length is recorded, and distinguishing features
(e.g., regenerated tails, pigmentation, dorsal spine
anomalies) are noted. Ten individuals in each group
relocated are fitted with radiocollars and are monitored
weekly until the next translocation.
During weekly checks of radiotagged iguanas
we record animal location using DGPS, as well as
habitat and behavior variables. Most animals allow us
to approach them closely. Plant species within a 0.5 m
radius of each animal are recorded. Most iguanas are
seen basking on rocks, climbing in shrubs, or hidden in
burrows. We note the condition of all radiocollared
animals and uncollared animals opportunistically. On
return to the lab, data are transferred to a GIS database.

Future plans
As of February 2000, a population of 233
Cyclura c. carinata had been restored to Long Cay. The
project will continue for the next 2-3 years with
relocations scheduled every 2-3 months. We plan to
relocate 800-1200 animals per year, 2400-3600 total.
Our next relocation will occur between 2-17 May
2000. Volunteers are always welcome and should
contact Numi Mitchell (numi@wsii.com) regarding
expedition schedules.

Gerber, G.P. 1998. Management plan for the protec-
tion of the iguana. In: Strategic Environmental
Assessment for Big Ambergris Cay, Turks and Caicos
Islands, British West Indies. Coastal Systems Interna-
tional, Coral Gables, Florida, p.C1-C37.

Schwartz, A., and R. Thomas. 1975. A checklist of
West Indian amphibians and reptiles. Carnegie Mu-
seum of Natural History Special Publications 1:1-216.

Numi Mitchell
The Conservation Agency

Michelle Fulford
Department of Environment and
Coastal Resources, TCI

Rick Haeffner
Denver Zoo

Wesley Clerveaux
Department of Environment and
Coastal Resources, TCI

Glenn Mitchell
The Conservation Agency

The Turks & Caicos iguana, Cyclura carinata,
is the smallest of the West Indian iguanas and conse-
quently is the most vulnerable to introduced mamma-
lian predators and competitors. Once widespread
throughout the Turks & Caicos Islands, the species
now occupies less than 5% of its historical range and
island populations continue to be lost at an alarming
rate, primarily due to the continued spread of exotic
mammals (Gerber 1995; Gerber and Iverson, in
press). Because of this, the Turks & Caicos iguana is
ranked as Critically Endangered on the World Conser-
vation Union's Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN
1996). At present, 30% of the remaining individuals
of this species inhabit Big Ambergris Cay, which is
privately owned and currently under development.
Without active intervention, many if not most of the
18,500 iguanas inhabiting Big Ambergris will be
destroyed during development and subsequent habita-
tion of the cay (Gerber 1998).
With a $272,147 grant from the Zoological
Society of San Diego's Conservation Fund, we will be
undertaking an in-depth research and conservation
program to relocate approximately 900 of these
animals to eight suitable, uninhabited cays in the
region. The cays selected for translocation are cur-
rently free of iguanas and introduced mammals,
contained within the Turks & Caicos reserve system,
and possess adequate habitat to support the number of

Adult male Cyclura carinata carinata, Turks and Caicos Islands.
Photo by Glenn Gerber

iguanas to be moved. All translocated iguanas will be
sexed, measured, and permanently marked with indi-
vidually identifiable tags. To maximize the reproduc-
tive potential of the translocated populations, only
adult iguanas will be moved and an equal sex ratio
(characteristic of wild populations) will be maintained.
To avoid overcrowding and encourage rapid population
growth, each island will be stocked to only 80% of its
potential adult carrying capacity, determined by island
size and habitat quality. This approach will ensure that
populations start under optimum and equivalent
conditions, and will allow individual as well as popula-
tion level monitoring of survival, growth, and repro-
duction so that translocation success can be related to
differences among translocation cays. Our work will
focus on the following five areas:

(1) Long-term ecological studies of
restored populations
We will conduct long-term ecological studies to
assess the success of the translocations. These will
include monitoring survival, growth, and reproduction
of translocated individuals and populations. To facili-
tate comparisons among cays and the identification of
factors responsible for translocation success, data on
climate (temperature and rainfall patterns), vegetation
(density, community types, and species composition),
and diet (number and relative importance of species)
will be collected on each cay. Data comparable to those
collected on the translocation cays will also be collected
from the source population on Big Ambergris.

(2) Nutritional analysis of food plants on
Big Ambergris and translocation cays
We will undertake nutritional studies in order
to 1) establish the nutritional resource base available to
the species on Big Ambergris, and 2) quantify differ-
ences in nutritional resources between Big Ambergris
and the translocation cays. This will allow us to assess
if, and how, translocation success is associated with the
quality, quantity, and diversity of available food re-

(3) Pre- and post-release health screenings
We will carry out health screening evaluations
in order to 1) establish baseline values for internal and
external parasite loads, blood chemistry parameters,
disease, and general health of iguanas on Big Amber-
gris, and 2) determine if, and how, these values are

affected by translocation. Because iguanas will not be
moved to islands with resident iguana populations,
there will be no risk of transmitting diseases or parasites
among iguana populations. Other reptiles, including
five small lizards and one snake, may occur on the
translocation cays. However, because of the high
likelihood that iguanas occupied these cays until recent
times, there is little risk that other native species will be
exposed to novel pathogens as a result of the transloca-
tions. Nevertheless, health screenings are important to
determine if there are significant changes in blood
chemistry values, disease, parasite loads, or general
health associated with translocation and, if so, whether
these changes are associated with differences among
translocated individuals (sex, body size, condition) or
translocation cays (climate, vegetation, resource avail-

(4) Pre- and post-release endocrine analyses of
stress hormones
We will conduct hormone assays in order to 1)
establish baseline physiological stress levels for iguanas
on Big Ambergris, and 2) determine the post-release
stress profile of translocated individuals. This will not
only provide a means of quantifying the intensity and
duration of physiological stress associated with translo-
cation, but also whether stress varies in accordance with
differences among translocated individuals (sex, body
size, condition) or translocation cays (climate, vegeta-
tion, resource availability).

(5) Public awareness and educational outreach
Education is crucial to protecting what remains
of the Big Ambergris iguana population following
development. In particular, we will seek to instill in
future residents of Big Ambergris an appreciation for
the important ecological role that iguanas play, and an
understanding of the devastating effects that intro-
duced mammals can have on iguana populations.
Together with our collaborators at the National Trust
for the Turks & Caicos Islands, we will develop an
educational program for Big Ambergris that stresses the
ecological benefits of keeping exotic and domestic
animals off the island. In conjunction with the pro-
posed research activities, a primary aim of our work is
to raise global conservation awareness regarding the
plight of West Indian iguanas and their dry tropical
forest ecosystems. To maximize the outreach opportu-
nities that become available as a result of the proposed

work, we will document all stages of the translocation
project on videotape and slides. In addition, the
program will be publicized on the grounds of the San
Diego Zoo through a looped videotape presentation
that will run continuously on a monitor in the Reptile
House, and an interpretive graphic to be placed at a
West Indian rock iguana exhibit that is currently

(6) Training and technology transfer
Throughout the proposed program, we will work
closely with the Department of Environment and
Coastal Resources (DECR) and National Trust staff to
provide the necessary training and technology transfer
to allow them to take over monitoring of the translo-
cated iguana populations at the close of the granting
period. Training areas to be emphasized will include
safe methods for capturing wild iguanas and perma-
nently marking them with passive integrated transpon-
der tags, blood collection techniques, survey method-
ology for carrying out standardized population
censusing, and plant identification. At the close of the
program, our research vessel and a portion of our
equipment will be jointly donated to the DECR and
the National Trust for continuing use in monitoring
the translocated iguana populations.

The comprehensive nature of the proposed
work, with its strong emphasis on long-term monitor-
ing, will ensure that the translocation program has a
high probability of success. Furthermore, the collec-
tion of data on iguana nutrition, health, stress, sur-
vival, growth, and reproduction will allow us to better
determine the range of factors most important for
successful translocations. This will not only be useful
to future conservation efforts for this species, but will
have important implications for conservation efforts
for other species of West Indian iguanas, a significant
number of which may soon rely on translocations for
their survival. Past success rates of vertebrate translo-
cation projects have been estimated at 44% (Griffith et
al. 1989), suggesting that we still have much to learn
about the factors influencing success or failure of such
efforts (Dodd and Seigel 1991). The proposed pro-
gram represents the first time that a translocation
effort of this magnitude, involving multiple sites and
multidisciplinary scientific monitoring, has ever been
attempted. With eight replicate translocation sites and
a focus on long-term ecological monitoring, our work

will serve as a model demonstration program with
broadly applicable results.

Michelle Fulford, Department of Environment and
Coastal Resources, Turks and Caicos Islands

Ethlyn Gibbs-Williams, National Trust for the Turks
and Caicos Islands

Dodd Jr., C.K., and R.A. Seigel. 1991. Relocation,
repatriation, and translocation of amphibians and
reptiles: are they conservation strategies that work?
Herpetologica 47:336-350.

Gerber, G.P 1995. Population status of the Turks
and Caicos rock iguana (Cyclura carinata). Report to
the Turks and Caicos Islands National Trust. 23pp.

Gerber, G.P 1998. Management plan for the protec-
tion of the iguana. In: Strategic Environmental
Assessment for Big Ambergris Cay, Turks and Caicos
Islands, British West Indies, Coastal Systems Interna-
tional, Coral Gables, Florida., p.C1-C37.

Gerber, G.P and J.B. Iverson. In press. Turks and
Caicos iguana, Cyclura carinata carinata. In: West
Indian Iguanas: Status Survey and Conservation
Action Plan, edited by A.C. Alberts. IUCN - the
World Conservation Union, Gland, Switzerland.

Griffith, B., J.M. Scott, J.W Carpenter, and C. Reed.
1989. Translocations as a species conservation tool:
status and strategy. Science 245:477-480.

IUCN. 1996. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
IUCN - the World Conservation Union, Gland,

?i( Glenn Gerber
San Diego Zoo

Allison Alberts
San Diego Zoo

200 m

Aerial photograph ofBig Ambergris Cay prior to any
development (left), and preliminary master plan for the
development ofBig Ambergris Cay.
(Rhett Roy Landscape/Architecture Planning, PA., 1997)

Recent Literature

Alberts, A.C. 1999. Conservation spotlight: Develop-
ing recovery strategies for West Indian rock iguanas.
Endangered Species Update 16(5): 107-110.

Bendon, J. 1998. It takes two to tango on Booby Cay.
Journal of the International Iguana Society (Iguana
Times) 7(3):37-42.

Crother, B.I., editor. 1999. Caribbean Amphibians and
Reptiles, Academic Press, San Diego, CA, 495pp.

Ehrig, R.W. 1998. Progress for Cyclura rileyi cristata.
Journal of the International Iguana Society (Iguana
Times) 7(2):27-28.

Glor, R.E., R. Powell, and J.S. Parmerlee, Jr. 1998.
Cyclura ricordii. Catalogue of American Amphibians
and Reptiles 657:1-3.

Knapp, C. 1998. Morphologic characters of herbivo-
rous lizards. Journal of the International Iguana Society
(Iguana Times) 7(1):11-17.

Knapp, C. 1998. Vanishing iguanas. Journal of the
International Iguana Society (Iguana Times) 7(3):27-30.

Powell, R. 1999. Herpetology of Navassa Island, West
Indies. Caribbean Journal of Science 35(1-2):1-13.

Powell, R., and R.W Henderson. 1999. Addenda to
the checklist of West Indian amphibians and reptiles.
Herpetological Review 30:137-139.

Powell, R., J.A. Ottenwalder, and S.J. Inchaustegui.
1999. The Hispaniolan herpetofauna: diversity,
endemism, and historical perspectives, with comments
on Navassa Island. In: Caribbean Amphibians and
Reptiles, edited by B.I. Crother, Academic Press, San
Diego, CA, p.93-168.

Powell, R., J.A. Ottenwalder, S.J. Inchaustegui, R.W
Henderson, and R.E. Glor. 2000. Amphibians and
reptiles of the Dominican Republic: species of special
concern. Oryx 34:118-128.

Schettino, L.R., editor. 1999. The Iguanid Lizards of
Cuba. University Press of Florida, 458pp.

Wasilewski, J. 1998. Booby Cay update. Journal of
the International Iguana Society (Iguana Times)

WIISG Contact Information

Jose Ottenwalder, Co-Chair
UNDP-GEF Biodiversity Project,
Dominican Republic
Email: biodiversidad@codetel.net.do

Richard Hudson, Deputy Chair
Fort Worth Zoo
Email: iguanhudso@aol.com

Allison Alberts, Co-Chair
Zoological Society of San Diego
Email: aalberts@sandiegozoo.org

Miguel Garcia, Deputy Chair
Department of Natural and Environmental
Resources, Puerto Rico
Email: miguelag@umich.edu

The World Conservation Union