Brackers get busy counting endangered iguanas

| 15/01/2012

brac iggy (236x300).jpg(CNS): Despite being an endangered species, there has never been a survey of the rock iguanas on Cayman Brac until now. Usually in the shadow of its blue cousin on Grand Cayman, this month the Brac iguanas have become the centre of intense focus as the Department of Environment began an in depth population survey of this unique sub-species of Cuban rock iguanas, found only on the Brac and Little Cayman. Some twenty researchers and volunteers are involved and the current total is 63 is climbing as a result of the help coming from Brackers, in particular school children who have become involved in the spotting process.

Experts working on the project said that as the Sister Islands iguana is an endangered species, means of conservation can only come through education and habitat preservation. The informaiton gathered during the survey will better inform conservation efforts aimed at ensuring a healthy population of iguanas on Cayman Brac in future years.

The rock iguana faces many of the same problems of its famous blue relative, including the impact of development such as more roads and sub-divisions as well as feral dogs and cats, plus speeding cars, which have all taken their toll.

Researchers were suprised by the number so far however, and iguana reports continue to flow into the hotline: 917-7744. Once a call is made a team of researchers are swiftly dispatched to the location where the iguana in question – which is hopefully still close by – is caught and then a comprehensive data collection process is carried out.

First the iguana is measured and weighed. Then it is scanned to see if it has an identification microchip already implanted. If not, one is inserted. The gender of the reptile is then checked, and this is followed by the attachment of an external tag. Finally, a number is painted using whiteout on its side. The whiteout will eventually disappear, but the microchip will remain active for life, allowing the life span of the iguana to be monitored on a regular basis. When the processing has been completed, the iguana is released back into the habitat where it was found. Photographs of the habitat are taken and added to the data file which is being completed on each animal.

The first part of the survey is expected to be completed by the end of January but volunteers will return later in the year to observe and record both the mating and the birthing of future populations.  Reports of new finds or any mortalities will all be added to the data collected

Volunteers comprise many Brackers, especially members of the Brac National Trust, as well as volunteers from throughout the US under the auspices of the International Reptile Conservation Foundation (IRCF), which has also been supporting the program.

brac iguanna count.JPGFor some who have been involved for several years with the blue iguana programme on Grand Cayman, this is their first visit to the Brac. Several young Brackers are also being trained in the survey techniques and will be able to carry on the process when the overseas volunteers have returned home. One young Caymanian, Jerrica Wood (pictured right) from Bodden Town, also took part in the study as part of her practicum for her studies in Integrated Wildlife Conservation at University of the West of England.

(Photo by Martin Keeley)

Category: Science and Nature

Comments (10)

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  1. Kung Fu Iguana says:

    I am very interestedin the outcome of the research into the effects on the population given the interbreeding in such a small island.

  2. Just wondering says:

    If it’s unique, and it’s only on Brac and Little Cayman (and by implication it’s not in Cuba), why don’t they name it the Cayman Iguana? Why name it for a place it’s not in? Next we might name the parrots in Cayman “the Great Antarctic Parrot” or “the Space-Suitlessless Martian Parrot”, which would make as much sense. Must be the CIG in charge of this stuff…

    • Elucidator says:

      FYI, These iguanas are called Rock Iguanas (and there is a LOT of rock on these islands).  They are a sub-species of the Cuban Iguanas and are not referred to as a Cuban Iguana.

    • Anonymous says:

      The "Cayman Parrot" is also a sub-species of the Cuban Parrot.

  3. Anonymous says:

    They count by spotting them? lol… I have to laugh, because there could be hundreds on them not spotted on the bluff!

    • Anonymus says:

      Yeah, it would be pretty silly to do a survey on Cayman Brac and not go out and do actual surveys on the bluff. Wonder who the silly one is, you or them? (I'm betting you.)

      • Bonnie Scott Edwards says:

        We've done some fairly thorough transects through the bush on the Bluff and have found quite a few iguanas there.  We are continuing to search on the Bluff, looking for tail drags, scat, sufficient food plants and other signs that indicate likely habitat and then searching and placing traps in those areas.   We capture the iguanas, do a physical assessment, pit tag and bead them for identification and then release them unharmed exactly where they were  captured.  When HavaHart traps are placed, they are checked frequently so that the animal is confined for a very short period.

        It is very unlikely there are hundreds of iguanas here but we may eventually find close to one hundred.  The data that is collected may lead to a preserve/reserve on the Bluff where these unique animals can live away from proximity to cars and unleashed dogs (two of the major iguana killers).

    • grouper moon says:

      They are surveying the bluff 

  4. Bonnie Scott Edwards says:

    Volunteers have also come from the UK.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Time for a Brac National Park like the Queen Botanic Gardens