In the wake of recent disheartening reports of the deaths of two of Cayman’s most celebrated Blue Iguanas, the National Trust’s Blue Iguana Recovery Programme has received a fundraising boost from Walkers.
The firm recently donated CI$20,000 to the programme and has pledged a total of CI$60,000, to be paid over a period of three years, said a press release from the firm.
The donation will be used to fund the operating costs of the programme.
‘Donations for the purpose of covering staffing and operating costs of the facility are like gold dust,’ said Fred Burton, Director of the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme. Mr. Burton remarked that he was delighted with the generous contribution from Walkers. ‘Organisations tend to be interested in sponsoring a particular project or donating a specific piece of equipment to the recovery programme. While we appreciate all donations, things like simple day-to-day operating costs frequently get overlooked, yet are absolutely fundamental to the continuation of this work.’
Despite the upsetting news that dogs had attacked and killed two adult iguanas and injured a pregnant female, Mr. Burton insists that the aim of the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme is achievable. Following a breakthrough in captive breeding success in 2002, releases of captive bred and head-started Blue Iguanas have reached the point where the chronic decline in the wild population is being reversed.
Almost 100 young Blue Iguanas have now been released into the Salina Reserve, in eastern Grand Cayman, and the first of these to breed laid her eggs in the wild last week. Together with the smaller but older released population in the QE II Botanic Park, these iguanas prove the conservation strategy that is being employed, actually works, the release said.
‘Now it really boils down to sustainable funding of the programme, and securing enough protected dry shrub land to sustain a viable wild population,’ said Mr. Burton.
At least 1,000 wild iguanas must be restored to avoid long-term problems with inbreeding.
Walkers has a unique connection to the Blue Iguana, which has become something of a mascot for the firm. Just over three years ago, Walkers created a custom-designed stuffed toy in the reptile’s likeness with a view to promoting Walkers and the Cayman Islands at overseas conferences.
Recognising the potential of the toys as a tool for educating and raising awareness about the plight of the Blue Iguana, in the past three years Walkers has donated more than 1,000 of the cuddly toys to the National Gallery and the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme to raise money for art education and conservation efforts. The Blue Iguana toys have been so successful that Walkers produces different variations of the toy on an annual basis.
‘It only seemed fitting that Walkers use the likeness of the Blue Iguana to promote our country at overseas conferences and raise awareness about one of Cayman’s most celebrated endangered species,’ said Walkers Managing Partner, Grant Stein.
‘This donation was just a natural progression for the firm. We are delighted to support the ongoing success of the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme and ensure the survival of this unique ambassador of our islands.’