Along with a few humans, Little Cayman is home to some special animals, including the largest red-footed booby colony in the Western Hemisphere, along with a land creature similar but different to its blue cousin in Grand Cayman.
The Little Cayman Rock Iguanas (Cyclura nubila caymanensis) found solely on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman are a subspecies of the Cuban Rock Iguana.
According to literature from the National Trust for the Cayman Islands, the iguanas are gray-brown with black markings, red eyes and a row of spines from the back of the head to the tip of the tail.
The male is larger than the female and has substantial jaw muscles, giving it a very strong bite. They are vegetarian, foraging for fruits, flowers and leaves, and can reach five feet in length.
They tend to live alone and discourage other iguanas from entering their chosen area.
“When feeling threatened, iguanas turn themselves sideways to the foe, draw themselves up as high as possible on their four legs and flatten their bodies laterally so that the area they expose to their opponent is as large as possible,” says the Trust, adding that fierce fights can occur, especially during mating season among males who are aggressive from a very early age.
Mating season is usually around the first two weeks of May, when females select an area with enough food supplies to sustain them and which is also suitable for a nest. The eggs will not hatch if they get too hot, too wet or too dry. Males roam widely and can cover the territories of many females, ready to mate with each as they come into season, with the largest and strongest males mating most frequently.
Six weeks after mating, the female will excavate her nest in a patch of earth and lay up to 20 eggs. Carefully backfilling the tunnel, she then guards her nest site for a few more weeks. After 10 weeks spent incubating, the eggs begin to hatch. About eight inches long at birth, the hatchlings wait for all their siblings to emerge, drawing nourishment from their egg sac before exiting the nest as a group using their joint strength to dig their way to the surface. Once out of the nest, however, they quickly scatter into the undergrowth and fend for themselves, vulnerable to their main predators – birds and snakes.
Since the first humans settled Cayman Brac, the island’s iguana population has been decimated by pet dogs and feral cats which prey on nestlings, and as cars and human development have encroached on nesting habitat.
Little Cayman’s iguana population remains healthy for now, though it faces threats similar to those on the Brac. In recent years, the National Trust has been working to establish protected nesting areas in an effort to offer the animals a degree of safety during breeding season. A new green iguana eradication program has helped to ensure that invasive species does not further threaten these rare creatures.