Milestone reached with release of blue iguana

Karen Ford of the Blue Iguana Recovery Program helps ease a captive iguana back into the park. - Photo: Christopher Fletcher

The blue iguana odometer has turned over.

The National Trust of the Cayman Islands announced Friday that it has released its 1,000th blue iguana into the wild. That specimen, named Renegade, was let go last Monday into Colliers Wilderness Reserve and marked a milestone in the return of Cayman’s endemic species from the brink of extinction.

Renegade, like the other blue iguanas that have been released into the wild, was microchipped and fitted with colorful bead markings for future identification purposes. Renegade was one of 10 iguanas released last week, and the Blue Iguana Recovery Program plans 50 more this year.

The blue iguana was considered functionally extinct in the wild as recently as 2005, but the captive breeding program at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park has given the species a chance to rebound.

At this point, the Blue Iguana Recovery Program is looking to continue its sustained releases and to focus more on monitoring the population in the wild. There has been mounting evidence that the blue iguanas are actively breeding in the wild, but it is uncertain how many there are in the wilderness reserve.

The blue iguana remains on the endangered list, and the Blue Iguana Recovery Program is seeking funds to ensure it can maintain the genetic diversity necessary to keep the species thriving.

People interested in donating to the program or sponsoring and naming an individual iguana can visit www.nationaltrust.org.ky or call 749-1121.

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