Blue Iguana
Blue Iguana

Common name: blue iguana
Scientific name: Cyclura nubila lewisi
Length: 1.5 metres from head to end of tail
Weight: 11 kg or 25 lb
Population: over 650 individuals (born in captivity)
Distribution: Grand Cayman Island, in the Caribbean
Issue: extremely rare and vulnerable due to habitat degradation
IUCN Red List status: critically endangered

The blue iguana is a reptile that lives on Grand Cayman Island, in the Caribbean Sea, and nowhere else. Hence, it is  “endemic” to the island. Weighing an average of 11 kg, it can measure up to 1.5 metres in length from snout to tip of tail. Its name comes from its distinctive blue-grey coloration.

The blue iguana shares its time between the shrub forest and the rocky shores of the eastern portion of Grand Cayman. Its excellent vision allows it to perceive motion at great distances. In fact the blue iguana has a “third eye,” what biologists call a “parietal eye,” which perceives changes in light and, to a certain extent, temperature. It feeds primarily on up to 45 different plant species but will occasionally eat mushrooms and small crabs.

Until recently, the blue iguana was the most threatened reptile on the planet. It has been on the brink of extinction since the 1940s, and as recently as 2002, its numbers were estimated at between 10 and 25 individuals in the wild. Fortunately, in 1990, the Queen Elisabeth II Botanical Park began a restoration program for the blue iguana. The park raises the iguanas in captivity and releases them into two protected areas: the Salina reserve and, since 2010, the Colliers Wildlife Reserve. Thanks to these measures, the iguana’s population has increased and is approaching the goal of 1000 individuals set by the conservation organizations participating in this program.

The purpose of these reserves is to protect the blue iguana from its two main threats: habitat destruction and an overabundance of predators. The blue iguana has been hunted for its meat for hundreds of years, but in recent decades, other pressures, such as road and housing construction and the conversion of land for agricultural use, have gradually confined these reptiles to a smaller and smaller habitat. The introduction of dogs, cats and pigs to the island have also increased the threat, since young blue iguanas are highly vulnerable to the bites and claws of these predators.

Did you know?
The colour of the blue iguana intensifies during mating season.

REFERENCES: Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Encyclopedia of Life.

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