Lonely wild Blue Iguana’s marathon trek

Boddentown resident Douglas Watler had an unexpected encounter with a large Blue Iguana, walking in the middle of the road near the Queen’s monument last Tuesday.


The 11lb female is far too old to have been bred.
Photo: Submitted

Fearing it was likely to be run over, Mr. Watler caught the iguana and called the National Trust.

Safely transferred to the Trust’s Blue Iguana Recovery Programme (BIRP), the iguana was examined closely and identified as a large mature female Blue Iguana, the same one which the programme had been alerted to a week before.

She had been sighted by East End farmers in the Spotters Bay area, and BIRP staff and volunteers had been tracking her to determine if she was safe to be left in the wild. After a week of monitoring she had abruptly vanished.

It appears that between late last Sunday, and the following Tuesday, she walked 4.5 miles from Spotter’s Bay to the opposite end of the Queen’s Highway.

‘We really don’t know why’ says BIRP Director Fred Burton. ‘It’s breeding season now so she may have been looking for a male, or she may have been returning to a nest site she’s been using since her youth – who knows!’ She can be recognized because each iguana has a unique pattern of face scales.

Weighing 11 lbs, the female is far too old to have been bred and released by the BIRP, and she bore no tags or microchip, so clearly this is a rare survivor from times of old. By 2002 less that 25 of these original wild Blues survived, and undoubtedly many have died since.

The BIRP has placed her in a breeding pen in the QE II Botanic Park, in hopes of adding her family line to the youngsters the programme breeds to release to protected areas in the wild.

Since the population’s low point in 2002, the programme has restored over 200 young Blue Iguanas to the wild in the National Trust’s Salina Reserve. At least 1,000 are needed to take the Grand Cayman Blue Iguana off the critically endangered list.