Blue Iguana Recovery Program

Extinction imminent

Jul 17th, 2002 | By | Category: Blues in the Local Press

Editorial in Caymanian Compass, July 17, 2002

The news is grim indeed. If the situation is allowed to slide as at present, without active intervention, a magnificent national species will go the way of the dodo, and within the next five years.

The latest survey undertaken by the National Trusts Blue Iguana Conservation Programme foretells a bleak future for Grand Caymans only land reptile still lingering in pockets of virgin land in the islands eastern districts.

What was believed to be in the range of 150 animals of this critically endangered species now devolves to a catastrophically low 10-25. In the same tracts of land that were surveyed in 1993, there were five times more animals than now.

As in any island with limited land, the battle between development and conservation is high-pitched and constant. Grand Caymans own Blue seems to have fallen well into this morass.

However, loss of habitat appears to be but one aspect of dwindling numbers. The attendant effects of development and human habitation – feral dogs or cats brought by humans to the Islands as well as rats and road kills, all have had a cumulative effect on the very existence of Caymans Blue.

One solution to keep up the numbers in the wild is setting aside, specifically for the animals, a secure habitat that cannot be breached by feral animals.

The Botanic Park, which shelters most of Caymans flora species, is working well as a natural habitat for the captive bred Blue Iguanas that the National Trust, under the tireless efforts of its then employee, Mr. Fred Burton, had the wisdom to put into action. There appear to be more captive bred blue iguanas at the Park some 30 animals – than those living truly in the wild now.

While government involvement and, consequently, public funds might not be easily available, given the cash strapped nature of government coffers, what is needed more is the will and commitment to actively preserve a segment of Caymanian heritage.

Celebrating heritage has to embrace all aspects, even a reptile species that might get dismissed as a lowly beast on Caymans totem pole of priorities. That would certainly be a great pity.

One possible silver lining regarding imminent action is that funding for such nearly-lost causes is available out there, beyond Caymans shores. It has to be pursued and tapped. Indeed, the robustness of the Trusts captive breeding programme owes considerably to donations from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and other organisations.

Whatever the source, meaningful action is urgently called for now. There is no time to dawdle. The action taken, or not, will be a testimony to the seriousness with which Cayman views the imminent demise of a part of Caymanian heritage.

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