Iguanas need sanctuary

Plans are afoot to set up an iguana sanctuary on Little Cayman to allow the creatures to nest and live in safety.

Iguana expert Fred Burrecently found 32 nests in the Preston Bay area of the sister island.

And now the National Trust on Little Cayman wants to set up the sanctuary in that location to ensure the future of the species.

But the trust needs two lots of Crown-owned land, covering around 35 acres, for the project.

‘We are hoping to get the Crown to transfer the land where the iguanas’ major habitat is,’ said Gladys Howard, chairman of the National Trust’s Little Cayman committee.

She also wants to see the nesting area – currently in private ownership – purchased by the Government using cash from the environmental protection fund.

‘We are trying to establish an iguana sanctuary with a habitat and nesting area,’ she said.

‘We want to preserve the area where there is a very large colony of iguanas before development invades their habitat.

‘This is all part of sustainable development – if we do not preserve what we have it is gone forever and the motto of the National Trust is to preserve Cayman for future generations.’

Mr. Burton, who is director of the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme on Grand Cayman, said he estimates there are up to 2000 Sister Isles Rock Iguanas – a sub-species of the Cuban Rock Iguana – on Little Cayman.

But he emphasised that there as no room for complacency over the future of the species.

‘We do not want it to get to a state of crisis management as has happened on Grand Cayman with the Blue Iguana which is almost extinct,’ he said.

Mr. Burton pointed out that the area in Preston Bay where the iguanas lay their eggs is also a nesting site for turtles.

And he said that while it would be an excellent idea to have a sanctuary, there was no reason that iguanas and humans could not continue to co-exist happily on Little Cayman as long as predators such as cats and dogs are kept at bay, and their habitat is undisturbed.

Ms Howard spoke to Mr. Tibbets, Leader of Government Business, about the matter when he visited the island last week to open the Little Cayman Research Centre.

Sister Isles Rock Iguanas can grow up to five feet in length and live as long as humans.

On Little Cayman, they are given the right of way to cross the road.