The upcoming release of the Little
Blue Book: A Short History of the Grand Cayman Blue Iguana will draw in any
reader with even a passing interest in Grand Cayman’s living treasures.
Author Fred Burton is the Island’s
authority on these fascinating reptiles, and has managed to produce a book
that’s both informative and a pleasure to read.
That is no mean feat for a scientist,
yet Mr. Burton is known not only for his dedication to the Blues, as the
iguanas are called, but also for his enthusiasm for the topic. In his latest
book, he has succeeded in tackling the very serious subject matter of extinction
without losing the plot or the reader.
Taking a brief tour of the species’
evolution, then on to the Blues’ first encounter with humans and other life
forms, Mr. Burton deftly illustrates how their survival came to such a
precarious tipping point.
He notes that by the time he
arrived in Cayman in the early 1980s, wild Blues had almost faded from local
memory, though some were still being kept as pets.
Curious, he tried to find some in
the bush. Readers will feel the heartbreak of the discouraging results. But
there was a silver lining, as it led to the development of the Blue Iguana
Recovery Programme under the remit of the newly-minted National Trust.
Capitalising on the reptiles’
amazingly photogenic qualities, the book is filled with shots of the colourful Blues.
The reader comes away with a grasp of the individual creatures’ distinctive
quirks and qualities.
The reptile specialist brings the
Blues’ personalities, behaviour and physical traits to light. For example, Mr.
Burton describes how they are “professional chemists, testing hundreds of
plants and grading each one’s edibility based on its biochemical aroma,” and then
able to remember that information.
Though highly territorial, the
Blues need company from time to time. You will find your heart strings tugging
at the tale of one lonely female trudging for miles seeking a mate who never
The history of the Blues in Grand
Cayman is interspersed with details of the recovery efforts that basically
started with six breeding pairs in the early nineties, and readers will soon be
cheering along the players in the tale.
Highlighting the fact that many
hands and minds contributed to the Blues’ recovery, Mr. Burton brings together
many of the key human characters in this saga. The project of course not only
required on-the-ground efforts here in Cayman but funding and expertise from resources
the world over.
He traces the false starts (who
knew the repercussions of hybrids?) the failures (who knew young blues needed
very particular hidey-holes?) and everything in between.
The tale is fascinating for those
reasons but also for its ability to document the struggles of a dedicated and
hardworking collection of people determined to save a species on the brink of
Without being bombarded with heavy-handed
descriptions of the working conditions, you will still feel like you are sharing
in the researchers’ discoveries, joys, and exhaustion, and develop a new
appreciation for what has been accomplished.
It is striking that the race to
save the Blues was a success considering the formidable obstacles in its path. The Blues, at least for the time being, now
have a future.
The book launch for the Little Blue Book:A Short History of the Grand
Cayman Blue Iguana is Wednesday, 21 April, the eve of Earth Day in Cayman. The event will
take place at CBlu Lounge at Rackams, George Town, 6-8pm. Complimentary refreshments will be provided.
Additional parking will be available across the street. Copies will be for sale
at $18 per copy.