Thirty new Blue Iguanas HatchOct 2nd, 2002 | By admin | Category: Blues in the Local Press
By Fred Burton
Mr. Burton says a portion of the increase in breeding success of the released iguanas is because the females lay more eggs as they grow older. More significantly, this year all five nests that were found were excavated, and the eggs were incubated artificially. “This has produced a much better hatching success than last year, when the nests were left to hatch naturally,” he comments.
The wild nests are prone to failure from drying out in some areas, and flooding in others, he points out. “In incubators, the temperature and humidity can be kept near perfect for the whole two-and-a-half months the eggs take to hatch. The decision to collect and incubate the eggs this year was taken to help boost population numbers as quickly as possible.”
The newly hatched iguanas will be grown in captivity for about two years, he says. “This is another strategy to keep survival as high as possible, and so to rebuild the population size quickly. In the wild, most hatchlings die from natural causes or are killed by rats or feral cats before they are a year old. “Once they are large enough to stand a good chance of survival, they will be released to join the small but growing population roaming free in the Park or possibly in other protected areas,” he discloses.
With so many new hatchlings, the cage space at the programme’s captive breeding compound had to be expanded urgently, Mr. Burton pronounces. An international conservation agency has become actively involved in the continuation of the breeding programme. “A timely grant from the International Reptile Conservation Foundation, which has been raising funds for the project through its web site www.Cyclura.com, is covering most of the cost of the new hatchling and prerelease cages which are being built by “Wood Works” in Bodden Town,” he says.
Since the captive bred iguana release programme began in the mid-90s, 30 animals have been successfully released into the 65-acre environs of the Botanic Park so far. But the grim future that faces the last few animals that are clinging to life in the wild has no silver lining to it.
Observed Mr. Burton, “The future of Grand Cayman’s unique Blue Iguana is still in the balance. Less than 25 individuals from the original wild population now survive and their chances of breeding successfully are almost non-existent. The Blue Iguana Conservation Programme’s captive breeding efforts, and the released population in the QE II Botanic Park, represent the last glimmer of hope. It will take decades of work yet, and substantial resources, to develop these early successes to the point where we can say our Blue Iguana’s future is truly secure.”