Blue iguanas given chance to recolonize land

| 25/10/2011

(CNS): The home of the next generation of blue iguanas has been almost doubled with the purchase of a key piece of land that opens up previously inaccessible habitat in which the critically endangered creatures can now be released. A combination of willing landowners, the National Trust’s European Union EDF9 grant and a supplementary grant from Maples FS has allowed the recovery programme to buy 23 acres of land for the Salina Reserve. Originally deeded to the National Trust by the Cayman Islands Government, the Salina Reserve has always had a less than ideal northern boundary because of a privately owned piece of land situated almost entirely inside the reserve.

It divided the dry shrubland in that area, which is key habitat for the Grand Cayman Blue Iguana. It is this piece of land that has now been purchased by the Trust and become an integral part of the Salina Reserve.

“The importance of this land goes beyond the direct conservation value of the 23 acres involved,” said Fred Burton, Director of the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme. “The purchase has unlocked a previously blocked fragment of habitat, which together with the new parcel now almost doubles the area of shrubland available here for the Blue Iguanas to recolonize.”

The European Union grant to the Trust is part of a project “Management of Protected Areas to Support Sustainable Economies”, shared with the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the British Virgin Islands.

In Grand Cayman it is being implemented jointly by the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme, the National Trust and the Department of Environment. The grant includes some funds for landpurchase for Blue Iguana habitat, in addition to development of nature tourism and education infrastructure and programmes in the new Colliers Wilderness Reserve, which is also becoming a key home to the Blue Iguanas.

The Head of Delegation of the European Union (EU) to Jamaica commented that the EU was pleased to be able to contribute to the preservation of the Blue Iguana, an interesting and threatened species, through the extension of its habitat.

"Biodiversity is essential for the survival of mankind," he said. "Each of us have to do what we can to ensure that species, such as the Blue Iguana, survive and are there for our children and grandchildren.  This is a practical example of the support that the EU gives and I would like to congratulate the Cayman Islands National Trust for their hard work that has brought this extension of the Salina Reserve."

In a fortunate coincidence of timing, the landowners approached the Trust with a view to selling near the time that the Trust took receipt of the first tranche of the EU grant. With support from the project’s technical assistant (based in TCI) and the EU Delegation in Kingston, Jamaica, the necessary procedures and approvals were completed in good time and the purchase documents were signed on 14 September.

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  1. Hawksbill says:

    This is very encouraging!  Hopefully, the Blues will be able to survive amid the Greens out there.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Wow! I am surprised at the great amount of support for the blue iguanas. Two great stories only lines apart: Save Miss Lassie's House and Save the Blue Iguanas. What a difference in mentality as to how these two subject matters are treated. I bet I could make a good guess as to what nationalities read each of these and posted comments.


  3. Rollin G. Calfe says:

    This article highlights the weird desire on the part of the resident population for exotic pets (anyone else recall a prominent local family trying to import ferrets back in the 80s?) and the failure of government departments to identify a potential problem and address it before it got out of control.

    Caymanians/residents imported the first green iguanas. I remember seeing them in cages in the seventies. No doubt many were brought here illegally, but in later years I suspect that pet stores received import permits.

    The inevitable then happened in the form of escapes and dumping of unwanted animals.

    As the green iguana population began to grow, the DoE and the DoA studiously ignored the problem and the result is that the whole island is now covered with these invasive pests.

    As usual, there does not seem to be any official plan to address the issue and so we have the general population taking matters into their own hands.

    Another day in Lalaland………

    • Mat Cottam says:

      In fairness to the Department of Environment, it is inaccurate for you to say that this problem has been "studiously ignored". Far from it. The removal of the legal protection of the Green iguana afforded by the out-dated Animals Law is something the DoE has (very studiously) pursued for some 10 years, through the up-date of the old legislation in the form of the proposed National Conservation Law. DoE does not have impunity to ignore the laws of the land just because we don't agree with them – the law has to be changed first before we can act “within the law” – otherwise we would be “breaking the law” just like anyone else would be. The Animals Law was recently changed – as you point out – sadly this change was too late to stem the rise of the Green iguanas. Now they are in such numbers in Grand Cayman that they will probably never be eradicated, and the DoE certainly does not have the resources or the manpower to tackle the issue as it stands. Given the lower numbers of Green iguanas in Little Cayman and the Brac the DoE is working alongside local groups and individuals to try to prevent the establishment and spread of these pests there. Of course, Cayman still has no National Conservation Law, so when the next invasive species issue arises the DoE will equally be unempowered to take action. What you and others like you do not seem to realize is that the DoE has no legal power to prevent the introduction of invasive species. None. If someone wanted to import a container full of Green iguanas tomorrow, the DoE does not have any legal power to stop them, so please stop blaming the DoE for the environmental woes of Cayman, and take a look at the proposed National Conservation Law – otherwise, 10 years from now, you might find yourself blaming the DoE for studiously ignoring the inadequacy of our current conservation legislation.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Burton and others, thank you for clarifying the concerns of cross-breeding between the greens and the blues – that's comforting. I'm still going to kill any green I can – in the last year I have been unable to enjoy the benches and chairs under the trees in my garden because of their mess.

  5. Dennie Warren Jr. says:

    Here is a photo of one Cayman Blue I photographed which is believed to have been hatched in the wild.

    • William Verhoeven says:

      What a beautiful animal. Where was this taken?

      • Dennie Warren Jr. says:

        It was on a road off the Queens Highway.  I informed Mr. Burton and supplied him with copies of the pictures.  At first I was so excited that I didn’t know whether to just look or photograph it 🙂

  6. Anonymous says:

    Dont worry about cross breeding, worry about fighting for territory. I'm a little concerned the blues may not be scrappy enough to compete.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I am so tired of these green iguana pests eating my plants. Cant we do something to get rid of them? I DONT REALLY STOP MY CAR TO LET THEM CROSS THE ROAD , HOWEVER im not lucky to kill evev one. I dont know who was responsible for bringing them into the Country and Ihear that some folks eat them, but at this rate that they are breeding and increasing they will soon eat us.They are most disgusting, every day that I go in the yard I HAVE TO CHECK AND SEE WHICH PLANT THEY ATE FOR BREAKFAST.

    • Wha ya say says:

      This is a positive article about our indigenous BLUE Iguanas. Your comment highlights the need for the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Environment to step up and rid the island of the invasive green iguanas quickly before they become a problem in the Sister Islands. Clearly, in addition to being a nusiance and a pest, they are desensitizing the issue of our native Blue Iguanas that are struggling for survival.

    • Anonymous says:

      I see similar comments on caycompass site. You are not the only one complaining about the green iguanas. Apparently, they are an invasive species and I believe was put here just for a tourist attraction. They are a serious a problem. I planted a young papaya tree in my back yard, and discovered the other day, the tree was broken down. The iguana leaned on my tree, broke off the limbs and ate the papaya leaves, leaving its trunk. I have to now use chicken wire fencing to cover my plants, but they find their way into my garden. What do I do? 

  8. Anonymous says:

    All of the noble efforts of Mr. Fred Burton and many others in rescuing the blue iguana from the edge of extinction will be for nought when (not if)  the non-indigenous green iguana pest invades the habitat of the blues, mate and create some 'aqua'-hued bastard species. There are many people who continue to confuse the common green pest with being protected, stopping on the road to let them cross, for example. It must be realized that these are a real danger to the protected blue species and as many of the greens which can be culled (killed) should be. 

    A few months ago the body count on the Bypass was rising but they seem to have become street smart.

    • Anonymous says:

      Lets hope the bastardized offspring are infertile.  That's the blues only hope.

    • Anonymous says:

      Except that they are two different Genus (not even just species) with no evidence of any ability to interbreed. Its not like two dogs breeding, it would be like a dog and a cat breeding. – Now lets kill the green iguanas for the nuiscance they are, not the problem they wont be.

    • Fred Burton says:

      The Greens and Blues aren't hybridizing, fortunately. They are too far apart genetically speaking. Same reason dogs and cats don't hybridize.

  9. Anonymous says:

    This program continues to be Cayman's bright star.