Blue Iguana Recovery Program

Housing market looking up for the Blues

Mar 19th, 2009 | By | Category: Programme News

program-news-1-main-blues-housing-marketThe artificial retreats that we have been using to release captive-reared Blue Iguanas to the wild, are about to undergo an upgrade. The young Blue Iguanas now free in the Salina Reserve are fast outgrowing the wooden “Mark 5” retreats they were released in. Research last year indicates that the iguanas are beginning to disperse widely in search of suitable new homes. So, bigger and more permanent retreats are urgently needed.

A well-fitting, dry and comfortable rock hole retreat is one of a Blue Iguana’s most prized assets, essential to escaping unwanted attentions from bigger bullies, and a place of safety to sleep in at night. It seems that really good rock holes, where an iguana can turn around inside and come out head first, are in quite short supply. Years after release the iguanas are still using our Mark 5 wood retreats so long as they can still fit inside them.

Thanks to another generous grant from Greenlight Re on Grand Cayman, we are now working hard to build and install a large number of bigger retreats, hoping to encourage the growing Blue Iguanas to remain within the protection of the Salina Reserve. Because we’ve learned these retreats are important long term, we are converting to a new Mark 7 design cast in a high tech cement-type material.

The design work started with a small grant from the British Herpetological Society in 2006, and then was tested and developed further by the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme with technical support from IRCF, and local structural engineers at Halcrow Yolles. The Mark 7 design was finalized by late last year. Our stalwart perennial Team Blue volunteer Doug Bell was tasked with making the initial prototype.

After setting up a temporary workshop at the “Lizard Lair” volunteer accommodation at Boddentown, Doug wrestled with concrete, clay, fiberglass and plywood, creating successive molds in a bid to make the first master retreat. Halcrow Yolles researched and sourced a bag of cementaceous grout, strong enough to make the retreats with a mere half-inch wall thickness. The Machine Shop band-sawed the forms Doug needed to carve out the precise dimensions in clay and concrete.

And so to the first test pour. After three days of grout curing in the mold, the first attempt showed promise (the half-inch walls were good and strong!) but also disappointment – the retreat “locked” in the mold and had to be broken out in several pieces. Some head scratching, some modifications, then on to the second try. Result: better, but still the retreat didn’t come out whole. The third try finally brought us success! Once we had the fine details solved, the casting came out strong and intact, and our first test iguana took to the first Mark 7 size C retreat with obvious enthusiasm.

The Mark7-C casting has been sent to a professional mold maker in Florida (Unique Species Inc) whose owner Rick Hardy is generously making ten production molds for us, for the cost of materials only. The molds will be shipped back to Grand Cayman, and we will be set to start mass production, casting usable retreats ten at a time!

Halcrow Yolles’ supplier Coastal Construction Products Inc. secured a discount from manufacturer SIKA on a full palette of their Grout 212, and threw in free shipping for us also. So now we have the material we need to cast the retreats at a fraction of the commercial cost.

While the first ten production molds are being made in Florida, Doug is working away on Mark 7 size D, then size E…

So our wild iguana housing will be transitioning from wood to cement, and the square footage options are getting larger and larger! It’s just the beginning, of course. Decades from now the biggest of these Blues will have grown huge, and we will probably be assembling iguana mansions for them…

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