Blue Iguana Recovery Program

Tracking Details – Updates from Grand Cayman

Dec 6th, 2004 | By | Category: Blues in the Local Press

On 6 December 2004 the first permanent release of Blue Iguanas into the Salina Reserve on Grand Cayman was initiated. Artificial retreats had already been backpacked into the two selected release areas, both of which are mosaics of soil patches amid dry, rocky shrubland, but with contrasting vegetation and density of plant cover. Six two-year-old, radio tagged females were placed in their retreats in the northern zone, and seven more in the central zone All were free to emerge into the wild the following morning.

The released females were tracked from dawn to dusk every day through 24 December, by a team led by Blue Iguana Recovery Program (BIRP) Director Fred Burton, and including (cumulatively through the tracking period) BIRP staff Chris Carr and Samantha Addinall, Cayman Islands Department of Environment staff Janice Blumenthal and John Bothwell, and overseas participants Sarah Doty, Judith Bryja (Houston Zoo), Desiree Wong, John Kunna, and Craig Pelke (Milwaukee County Zoo). The work is funded by grants from the Dennis Curry Charitable Trust through the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, and the International Iguana Foundation. The overseas participants were coordinated by the International Reptile Conservation Foundation, with most participants paying their own way or being funded by their respective institutions.

On 25 December radio tags were fitted to ten males (also two years old), and these were released in the same two areas on 28 December. Daily dawn-to-dusk radio tracking resumed with all 23 iguanas being located at least once per hour. The staggered release was intended to allow the females opportunity to establish stable territories, which would then serve to anchor the potentially more mobile males in the release areas. So far, the strategy seems to be working, with the females remaining extraordinarily faithful to their release sites, and the newly released males already forming associations with neighbouring females.

As of 6 January, all 23 released iguanas are alive and well, and are being successfully located every hour. Intensive tracking will continue through 20 January, after which focal animal observations will commence on selected individuals until the radio transmitter batteries start to expire. If all continues to go according to plan, some of the released females will nest in the soil zones of the Salina Reserve in summer 2005, signaling the restoration of a second breeding population of Blue Iguanas, protected in a small part of the wild landscape that is their ancestral home.

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