Sister Islands’ iguanas face serious decline

| 27/04/2011

(CNS): The local branch of the National Trust is beginning a campaign to try and reverse the decline in the numbers of the unique subspecies of the Cuban Iguana which lives only on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. According to officials, a survey has revealed there are now less than two thousand rock iguanas left on Little Cayman and there are no figures for Cayman Brac. It is believed that road deaths and feral pets along with the loss of habitat are the main causes of the worrying decline. As a result, the Trust is encouraging drivers to slow down and for pet owners to keep animals leashed as it seeks ways to protect the iguanas’ habitat on both islands.

Officials, stakeholders and members of the NGO met with the Department of Environment on 16 April to discuss the pressures faced by the Sister Islands Rock Iguana.

Cyclura nubila caymanensis is a genetically distinct subspecies of the Cuban Iguana that exists only on the islands of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. Recent surveys have revealed low iguana densities on Little Cayman, where the population is estimated to be between one thousand and two thousand, indicating a serious decline.

Experts believe the fall in numbers is due to increased development as well as road traffic and pets. One hundred rock iguanas are killed by vehicles on Little Cayman each year, which amounts to 8% of the population, or the equivalent of 4,000 people being killed in traffic accidents per year on Grand Cayman, the National Trust explained. “This is especially troubling in light of the fact that Little Cayman is the smallest island with the lowest posted speed limits,” officials said.

The Trust says that serious efforts are now required to prevent the further decline and facilitate a natural increase of current population levels of iguanas on an island-wide basis.

Drivers will be encouraged to reduce their speed and pet owners will be encouraged to keep their animals inside or leashed when out of doors. The National Trust will also move forward with protecting important rock iguana habitat on the Sister Islands.

So far no surveys have been performed on Cayman Brac but the low numbers of iguanas there can certainly be explained by similar threats having occurred over a longer span of time and with more intensity. A comprehensive population survey will be undertaken on the Brac to determine the number of Sister Islands rock iguanas left there, the Trust said. 

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Category: Science and Nature

Comments (2)

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  1. Alan Nivia says:

    Should we not send them off to sea on a large piece of driftwood and proudly report that we offered them no assistance?

  2. TDS says:

    Clearly, in Little Cayman, all visitors and islanders need to respect the speed limits for that will assist in assuring the safety of the respected and cherished limited family of iguanas on our island(s). The primary purpose of speed limtis are for the safety of drivers, pedestrians, and yes, iguanas too…

    I trust once we appreciate the fact that there is no real urgency to go anywhere in Little Cayman in a hurry, we should change our newly bad habits of recklessness and irresponsible speeding and start engaing in traits of necessary care required by law for the sole reason we are interested in enforcing it.. lets engage in a policy for all that says "safety first" and safety for all drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and yes our protected cohabitants, the cuban iguana and all iguanas.

    Respectfully submitted, among my peers,

    TDS