Cayman’s conservation success story told in New York

New blue iguana exhibit at Bronx Zoo

One of the blue iguanas featured in the exhibit at the Bronx Zoo in New York. - PHOTO: JULIE LARSEN MAHER

A new exhibit highlighting the Grand Cayman blue iguana’s recovery from the brink of extinction has opened at the Bronx Zoo in New York.

The exhibit, which features a pair of blue iguanas bred in captivity, highlights the “amazing conservation success story” of the rare reptiles, according to a press release.

The two young iguanas at the Bronx Zoo were bred at other zoos that participate in a cooperative program designed to enhance the genetic viability of animal populations in zoos and aquariums.

The Wildlife Conservation Society Zoological Health Program, based at the zoo, has been working with the National Trust and the Department of Environment in the Cayman Islands for the past 15 years to help revive the species, which once numbered fewer than 20 animals.

“The animals at the Bronx Zoo will help us tell the story of their species – a wonderful story of conservation success,” said Paul Calle, the society’s vice president for health programs.

“Blue iguanas were functionally extinct just a few years ago and would not exist on this planet today if it were not for the collaboration and intervention of these groups.”

The society offers veterinary support for efforts that include captive breeding, incubating and hatching of both wild and captive laid eggs, and head-starting hatchlings at a breeding facility to allow them to grow large enough to better avoid predators before being returned to the wild.

Veterinarians from the Bronx Zoo conduct pre-release health evaluations, annual health assessments of blue iguanas at the breeding facility, and examinations of iguanas in the wild.

The recovery effort, shepherded by the National Trust for the Cayman Islands Blue Iguana Recovery Programme, the Cayman Islands Department of the Environment, and the IUCN Iguana Specialist Group, has released nearly 1,000 iguanas since its inception.

 

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