Blues to star in new nature tourism attraction

| 02/06/2011

(CNS): With the help of a European Union grant of E550,000 over three years, work is now well underway on the creation of a second reserve for Cayman’s iconic and unique blue iguana, which is also earmarked to become a natural tourist attraction. The Colliers Wilderness Reserve in East End will eventually become a place where visitors will be able to see a population of blues, which are already being introduced to the area, living in the wild. Located east of the existing Salina Reserve, this new wilderness reserve will be accessible to visitors and become a self-sustaining nature tourism and educational centre.

A Protected Area Planning Team has already been established for the reserve that has been working steadily behind the scenes. Made up of experts from the National Trust, Department of Environment, the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme and several other local specialists the team has been working on concepts for the reserve’s visitor centre.

“We intend to develop a model environmentally sensitive and sustainable centre,” Fred Burton, the director of the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme, explained “We hope to operate it entirely on solar power, with zero waste discharge on site, and exemplary custodianship of the pure groundwater in the area.”

He said that underlying the work of the Protected Area Planning Team is a mandate to ensure that the reserve, including the restored population of Blue Iguanas, will be financially and ecologically self sustaining, once established and operating.

The creation of the reserve has been made possible as part of a specialist European Union project focused on the management of protected areas in three overseas territories in the region – Cayman, Turks and Caicos and BVI.

In the Cayman Islands the goal is to create the Colliers Wilderness Reserve which will not only provide another home for a second population of blue iguanas, but will also provide for a range of human activities which are compatible with the preservation of the wilderness, so that the protected area is a real asset to the local community, as well as a significant tourism attraction.

When the new protected area was leased to the National Trust by the Cayman Islands Government last year, there was no access either for pedestrians or cars. It was also affected by two gazetted road corridors which threatened the viability of the area as a nature reserve.

Burton explained that since then the access has been resolved by the realignment of a minor road originally gazetted to run all along and within the east boundary of the Reserve, to connect instead to an existing subdivision road under construction from the main coast road at the very east end of the island which was gazetted on 23 May. Although the issue of any future extension to the East-West arterial still remains in question Burton is hopeful that the NRA will be able to curve the road around the reserve leaving it undisturbed.

Burton and National Trust Chair Carla Reid, recently visited the British Virgin Islands for a meeting of the third Project Steering Committee and in the wake of that meeting the project’s Technical Assistant for finance and administration, David Elizondo Gimenez, is visiting Grand Cayman this week. The expert is holding workshop and other meetings to assist the local agencies involved with implementing the Cayman Islands component of this project. This week’s meetings with the technical assistant will prepare the National Trust to proceed with administrative aspects of the project and progress on several early project goals.

A land purchase, key to completion of the Salina Reserve, is also included in the EU project and is an immediate target for completion. This year the Trust also expects to goto tender for provision of the solar power equipment which will be installed as soon as planning permission has been secured and access has been constructed. A grant from the AALL Foundation is already in hand towards this goal.

The Colliers Wilderness Reserve will not be open to the public during the careful development of the sustainable nature tourism infrastructure. However, once phase 1 is complete there will be a formal opening — perhaps in 2013 or 2014 when the reserve will begin welcoming residents and visitors.

Meanwhile, a recent press article in the Czech Republic suggesting that a blue iguana had been acquired by the Prague zoo has set Burton and the recovery team something of a detective challenge. Burton told CNS that the zoo officials have been very co-operative and have agreed to send blood and dna samples from the iguana which will be sent to partners of the recovery programme in San Diego to be processed before being passed on to other experts in Puerto Rico for analysis. 

Once he has a dna profile of the iguana Burton said the team may be able to work out ‘who his daddy is’ and possible single out its relatives. Once the team has some ancestry they may be able to get to the bottom of how the blue, if it is in fact a genuine blue, wound up in the Czech Republic.

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  1. Sunneversets says:

    A good example of the advantages of being part of the United Kingdom.

  2. JJTA says:

    Good news. The green iguanas are spreading almost to the East End now and it has to be addressed. An eradication program is necessary, I will do it for free.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Dang…those iguanas are fugly!

  4. Fiction is stranger than truth says:

    This is really great news!! I know that Fred Burton and Carla Reid have been putting in many hours on this project and to know that their work will not be in vain is wonderful.  The Blues should be protected at all cost.  This will also be  great for tourism up at East End.  I just hope that the tour buses filled with tourists will not have to drive by "the Big Hole" at the entrance of East End to see the Blues.  That would be a travesty.  We must  keep the pressure on until the announcement is made that there will be no "Big Hole"   There was another big announcement on Rooster this morning by Elio, that the Premier has decided not to consider dredging the northsound!!  Do anyone else heard it. He tried to play down that all the opposition from the people had anything to do with.  I prefer to differ!!

    Don't give up- we have them running!!  Good Job.!!

  5. Fred Burton says:

    oversignt and accounting, anonymous asks?

    check, and check.

    Oversignt comes from the European Union, who send Delegates and Monitors etc from time to time. Also from regular Audits, which are required under the conditions of the grant. And the project's Technical Assistant for Finance and Administration visits 3 times a year to check compliance, advise and assist as necessary.

    The National Trust emplys a full time accountant, and the acounting for this project is in that person's hands (with all the oversight above).

  6. Naya boy says:

    you better buy these boys some life jackets and life rafts when they finish with this quarry it will be a floating reserve

  7. Anonymous says:

    When I read this article and see how much care, hard work and passion, sustained over long years, has been implemented by intelligent, committed and dedicated people to preserve our Cayman Islands for ourselves and future generations, it throws the East End quarry into hideous and ghastly relief for the crass, destructive and self serving  project it is.

    BIRP is a light that shines brightly from these little islands: the proposed 'Big Hole' is a black cloud that hovers balefully over Cayman, poisoning the air. It's time those involved restored their hearing by pulling out the money that's stuffing up their ears, and started to show due respect for the voice of the people.


  8. no name says:

    not a single comment on this yet, yet it is the most positve story that has come out in recent months.

    lets focus on the positives rather than the negatives for once.


  9. Anonymous says:

    can I assume there's no oversight/accountingon this project as well?

    • Anonymous says:

      Why would you assume that?

    • Anonymous says:

      The National Trust has a Council  made up of prominent lawyers, accountants, business people, and scientists; all of whom are responsible for keeping a close eye on the project. 

      A major accounting firm is auditing the expenses of the project.

      The European Union will conduct frequent reviews of the project.

      The project has local and international partners, aside from the EU, who have extensive experience in managing large projects and donor funds.

      The National Trust itself is up to date with its accounts and audits.

      The National Trust has staff in place who have received training from the EU, not to mention the qualifications (including accounting) and experience they bring to their positions.

      So, you're right.  No oversight/accounting.


    • Anonymous says:

      as well as what?

    • GR says:

      And what makes you assume that there will be no oversight/accountability?

  10. CC says:

    Wonderful news!