An injured Cayman Brac rock iguana called “Nelson” who was airlifted to Grand Cayman in April has been released back into the wild in her home island.
Nelson’s leg was broken, possibly after being hit by a car, and she initially recovered at the home of Cayman Islands Department of Environment officer Mat Cottam in Grand Cayman. Earlier this month, she was flown home to Cayman Brac and recuperated at Bonnie Scott Edwards’s home before being released on Friday, 20 July.
“We released her in our yard as there’s land on the side of it where some iguana hatchlings have been found … We were afraid to release her into the same area where we found her because that habitat has been changed and is now a garden.
“We don’t know if she’ll stay around here or try to go back to that other area,” said Ms Scott Edwards, who along with her husband Gene Edwards looked after Nelson since she came back to Cayman Brac on a Cayman Airways Cargo plane on 28 June.
Watched by 20 Brac schoolchildren taking part in a National Trust for the Cayman Islands day camp, Nelson took her first tentative steps down the steps of the Scott Edwards’s house and back into the wild. She is now thought to be managing on her own in the bush as she has not been spotted since.
During her stay at Mr. Cottom’s and Ms Scott Edwards’s homes, Nelson lived on a diet of fruit and flowers and other foodstuffs she would usually be able to find in the wild.
“We tried not to tame her. We didn’t hand feed her. We put food out and scattered it around, so that helped her get some exercise,” Ms Scott Edwards said.
The iguana had the run of the couple’s house while they were at home, and could often be found under the bed or behind the couch, but their porch was her own domain. Volunteers in Cayman Brac built a plywood fence around the porch so Nelson could not escape before she had fully recovered.
“They built a play area for her. She could sun herself on the porch and we got a PVC pipe which she used as a retreat. When we left the screen door to the porch open and she’d come in,” Ms Scott Edwards said.
“Our aim was to make her life as stress free as possible,” she added. “We were told stress would inhibit her healing. We tried to encourage her to move around and that seems to have made a big difference between the time she got here and the time we let her go.”
The rock iguana was found with a broken right leg on the side of South Side Road in April. She was flown to Grand Cayman and treated by vet Andreea Sleahtenea of Island Veterinary Services.
A survey of the population of rock iguanas on Cayman Brac carried out earlier this year showed there were 86 of the endangered animals on the island.
Three have since been killed by speeding vehicles.
Two iguanas – a pregnant iguana in April and a young female iguana called “Little Girl” in June – were run over and killed on South Side Road. Also in June, the largest male iguana on the island, called “S”, was fatally struck by a vehicle on West End Road, near the airport runway.
Rock iguanas are indigenous to the Sister Islands and are considered to be critically endangered. They are a separate and distinct breed to the Grand Cayman’s blue iguanas.