The endemic Grand Cayman iguana (Cyclura lewisi) is among the world’s most endangered reptiles. From a population numbering in the thousands, it has steadily declined, and by 2002 only a remnant population of 15-20 wild iguanas remained. Faced with impending extinction in the wild, the National Trust for the Cayman Islands initiated the Blue Iguana Recovery Program (BIRP). Conducted in conjunction with the IUCN Iguana Specialist Group and the San Diego Zoo’s Conservation and Research for Endangered Species Department, the recovery effort includes captive breeding, recovery of eggs from wild nests, head-starting hatchlings with release to protected areas on Grand Cayman, and habitat enhancement and protection. Due to this effort there are now about 500 free-ranging Grand Cayman iguanas at three sites on Grand Cayman. None of the original wild population remains, with the wild population now consisting entirely of iguanas that were hatched and head-started in captivity before release to the wild, or their offspring. There has been excellent survival and successful reproduction of released animals, a striking and tangible demonstration of the value of captive breeding programs in the recovery of threatened and endangered species.
Photo credits to ©WCS/J. Maher