Blue Iguana Recovery Program

New home for the Blues

Apr 1st, 2009 | By | Category: Blues in the Local Press

Cayman News Service
Posted on Wed, 04/01/2009

Grand Cayman Blue Iguana - Photo: John Binns

Grand Cayman Blue Iguana - Photo: John Binns

(CNS): Grand Cayman’s famous Blue Iguanas are one more step further away from extinction following Cabinet’s decision to allocate Crown property to the National Trust coupled with a grant from the European Union to develop the protected area, where 100 hatchling Blue Iguanas will be released in 2010. However, the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme’s director Fred Burton says they will still have to raise much more money to complete the programme. (Photo by John Binns)

The EU grant is designed to cover 57% of the total cost of this particular project, which will fund the majority of the cost of a visitor centre and trails, plus education and awareness materials and programmes that will be based there, Burton said. However, BIRP and its supporters will have to put in a significant amount of other money and paid time, as well as find the funding for the access. “So, there is challenge which comes with the opportunity!” Burton said.

He further noted that the EU grant will be in Euros which as has since lost buying power here in the exchange rate. “So we are expected to, and will have to, raise a fair sum more to be able to deliver.”

In a released statement, BIRP said the Cayman Islands Government had formally committed to protecting almost 200 acres of Crown land in the east interior of Grand Cayman, through a 99-year peppercorn lease to the National Trust. The decision by Cabinet is linked to a European Union grant to the National Trust, for managing this area to conserve Grand Cayman Blue Iguanas in the wild, along with their unique shrubland habitat. The grant also focuses on developing sustainable, low-impact nature tourism, education and recreation with a visitor centre and trail system.

BIRP noted that in 2008 the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme began rearing over 100 hatchling Blue Iguanas, trusting that a new protected area would be established in time to release them in 2010. Now a release site is guaranteed, these young iguanas do indeed have a future, and another hundred or more Blue Iguanas will hopefully be hatched in 2009, for release in 2011.

While blanket protection of the environment in the form of a Nation Conservation Bill was not brought before the Legislative Assembly under the current administration, the release said Minister of Tourism and Environment, Charles Clifford, wished the conservation effort of this programme every success.

“The preservation of our indigenous Blue Iguana is important to our country and I am grateful Cabinet was able to allocate an appropriate piece of property to the National Trust to assist them in their efforts to save the Blue Iguanas. I also want to thank the European Union for their grant which makes this project possible. The grant along with the allocation of the land by Cabinet provides a tremendous boost to the National Trust’s efforts to establish a viable population of Blue Iguanas in their natural habitat,” the minister said.

“This is the breakthrough we have been working towards for years,” said Burton. “With this new protected area secured and available for iguana releases, we are now in sight of the kind of success that is all too rare in the world today. The Grand Cayman Blue Iguana really can be saved from extinction, and in a few more years the Cayman Islands may be able to boast that they have achieved just that.”

According to BIRP, this area is almost all pristine dry shrubland, a wild rocky landscape with views over the generally low native vegetation. This is an environment that Blue Iguanas thrive in. It also supports a range of endangered plants, several of which, like the Grand Cayman Blue Iguana, are totally unique to the Cayman Islands.

The Trust must now acquire access to the land, and a Protected Area Planning Team will commence work on the overall land use plan, including site location for the visitor centre and layout of the trail system.

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Eastern protected areas Grand Cayman - Photo: Blue Iguana Recovery Programme

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