Blues back from brink

| 18/10/2012

littlebluebook.jpg(CNS): The unique Grand Cayman blue iguanas have taken an official step back from the brink of extinction in the updated International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) threatened species list. As a result of the work of Fred Burton and the National Trust’s Blue Iguana Recovery Programme the indigenous iguana which was “critically endangered” is now listed as “endangered.” Burton explained that endangered was probably as good as it would ever get for the iconic creatures because of the incredible pressures on their environment but he said that the programme was very close to reaching the goal of 1000 ‘blues’ living in the wild.

While there are still many other conservation issues and significant numbers of species of flora and fauna in the Cayman Islands under threat, Burton's work demonstrates the possibilities when a commitment is made to conservation.

Although the Grand Cayman Blue Iguana (Cyclura lewisi) is protected by law and there are now reserves set aside for them to live and breed in the wild, with no national conservation law on Cayman’s statute books, the habitat which the blues need to survive outside of the reserves is not protected.  As a result ‘blues’ are unlikely to ever go beyond endangered.

“In IUCN Red List terms, Endangered is the best we can ever hope for as far as the Grand Cayman Blue Iguana is concerned,” said Burton,who aside from running the National Trust’s ‘blues’ conservation programme is also a member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission(SSC) Iguana Specialist Group. “Human impacts on Grand Cayman are now so extensive that there just isn’t scope for these iguanas to regain numbers in the tens of thousands. However, we are confident that we will achieve our long term goal of restoring at least 1,000 Grand Cayman Blue Iguanas to the wild,” he added.

The iguana is also threatened by free-roaming dogs and cats as well as by habitat loss so conservation must continue, Burton warned.

The latest update to The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species was released in India this week with the blues revised status. In 2002 there were only about 10 to 25 of them in the wild and as a result the iguana was listed as Critically Endangered but the conservation efforts have paid off and there are now 750 individuals living in the east of the island, resulting in the status change.

The recovery programme involves habitat protection, captive breeding and release, research and monitoring, as well as education and outreach, and is an example of how conservation can work successfully.

Jean-Christophe Vié, Deputy Directory, IUCN Global Species Programme said the recovery programme deserves congratulations as the downlisting of the Grand Cayman Blue Iguana is a fantastic achievement. “When people with dedication and good knowledge are supported, success can be expected and this news will boost the morale of people around the world who are working hard to improve the status of other species,” he said.

View the new Red List assessment of the blue iguanas here.

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  1. REAL WORLD says:

    Fred Burton should be on the Queen’s New Year’s, or Birthday, Honours list for a “serious” level Gong.

  2. TomCayman says:

    Fred has clearly played a key role in leading the programme, but major recognition please for John Marotta as lead warden, out there day after day, year after year.

    John is so full of energy, optimism, positivity, passion. Every time I've toured people around with him, I leave energised like I've been plugged into the wall !

  3. Anonymous says:

    Why don’t we open a blue iguana farm, say it does research, release one in every 500 we breed and eat the rest. Eating endangered animals can be of great cultural significance.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Mr Burton should be a national hero

  5. Kadafe says:

    Very well done guys. Thank you for your selflessness and sacrafices over the years.. It is greatly appreciated.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Can we eat them yet?

  7. durrrr says:

    Very good news, but only 750 in 10 years? There’s probably that many new green iguanas being born every month, with no help from us at all!

    • Anonymous says:

      Considering the Blue Iguanas were down to about a dozen animals in the wild 10 years ago, that's a pretty impressive population rebound.  what are you questioning? 


    • Anonymous says:

      Blue Iguanas breed once a year and green iguanas breed up to three times per year. Blue iguanas lay half the number of eggs as green iguanas. For more info go to


    • Jim Gobetz says:

      Typically green Iguanas will breed several times a year and females may have as many as 60 eggs, blues breed once a year and females may have 6-20 eggs. 750 in 10 yrs is a monumental feat and Fred and John are to be commended in the strongest possible terms. 

  8. Anonymous says:

    I have a theory that many of these car accidents are a result of half wits trying to run over the green iguanas. I myself have seen over the past year on four occasions people swerving off or across the road trying to kill a green iguana sitting at the side of the road. Nuff said .

    • Anonymous says:

      I have seen the opposite on countless occations. Some idiot willing to swerve into oncoming traffic possible killing someone in order to avoid hitting a green iquana or chicken.

    • Mr Bean says:

      I have seen this to. I am not sure if they want to kill the iguana or just want to take a closer look. One guy was evan towing a cenent mixer that bounced up the kerb and nearly flipped over. There was another couple that spent about an hour trying to run one down in the canal with their boat.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I'm wondering how some poster will, in the time honoured manner of CNS posting, be able to reduce all the good stuff in this and make it into either a UDP/PPM issue or, more likely, a Caymanian versus Expat issue.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you everyone who is involved with the Recovery Plan of the Blue Iguanas, you have done an excellent job.  Thank you so very much, well done!

    • Anonymous says:

      So far it's only you who has mentioned this kind of foolishness…. shame.

      • Anonymous says:

        No 8:07, I suspect by mentioning it up front that poster actually prevented any of the negative posting he/she was referring to. You must admit, it IS a real problem in most articles in CNS. That's the shame of it all.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Good news at last.  Well done Fred!

  11. Kirsten Luke says:

    Congratulations Fred Burton and every involved through the years, past and present.  WONDERFUL NEWS!! 

    This is an incredible accomplishment. 

  12. peter milburn says:

    I cannot say enough about the effort of Fred and all his supporting team for the fine work they have done with this endangered species.It is a credit to him and indeed to the Dept of Enviroment for a job well done.For all you nay sayers out there keep it to yourself.

  13. Anonymous says:

    This is really excellent news, congratulations to all concerned and lets hope the other laws and protections are put in place soon. .


    However, that is unlikely whilst the species known as the  "Lesser Spotted Premier" has disappeared, with no sightings in weeks. Allegedley his calls have been heard, but those may have been attributable to the frequently sited "bullshit soundbite bird".

  14. Anonymous says:

    Congratulations! It is nice to be able to read about something positive.

  15. NeoSurvivor says:

    Good stuff.  I've photographed many of the Blue Inguanas, and I really appreciate the efforts to restablish their numbers, especially after the criminals who slaughtered  many of them a few years ago.   It IS a 'fantastic achievement' that their numbers are escallating.   

    I would like to consider establishing them on the Sister Islands;  they could possibly interact with the indeginous iguanas.   

    • Anony says:

      No, lets not and not say we did. They are two different (sub?) species, remember. The Sister Islands iguanas need to be preserved seperate from the Grand Cayman iguanas. Lets focus, instead, on keeping them from ending up needing the sort of massive personal investment by so many people that its taken to pull the Grand Cayman iguanas back to 'endangered'. (Stop and think about how successfull that eally sounds.) Maybe, as a start, Ju-Ju can run her paver along the south coast Brac road again and put down some speed bumps. Would probably save more than just iguanas.

    • Anonymous says:

      Please educate yourself on this issue.


  16. Anonymous says:

    Whatever happened to the guy who deliberately let his dogs attack the Blues several years ago and killed so many of them? Did he ever get prosecuted?

    • Anonymous says:

      I wondered what ever happened with the attack as well to assure that it wouldn't happen again.

      • Anonymous says:

        It is well known in North Side it was a Caymanian so nothing will be done.

        • xxxxwit says:

          Let's all stop a minute and curse that person to ourselves and to God.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Good news. Hope these unique guys continue to do well. 

  18. Anonymous says:

    I don't often write to express my opinions or concerns, however I hereby wish to take the opportunity to publicly express my sincere thanks and congratulations to Mr. Burton and all the staff, volunteers, and supporters of the Blue Iguana Recovery Program who have dedicated themselves tirelessly to such a worthy cause, not just for Cayman, but for the world, so another species was not lost forever from our planet.!!!  As a Caymanian I couldn't be more proud of the way this program has been carried out and we owe sincere thanks to Mr. Burton for his foresight and his hard work to bring our blues back!  You are a national hero in my eyes!  Shirley Roulstone 

  19. Anonymous says:

    Very well done Mr Burton and all who helped you! A wonderful, achievement and at last, God be praised, a positive story to be reported on CNS!