Large blue iguana nest brings promise of healthy hatchlings

Grand Cayman has its first captive-bred, blue iguana nest of the year, and researchers are hopeful that the sheer number of eggs will mean a healthy batch of hatchlings this summer.

Breeding between female iguana Lady Pop and a male partner, HaGl, resulted in a clutch of 18 seemingly fertile eggs, discovered Wednesday. A 19th egg was found damaged and, therefore, deemed non-viable.

Researchers with the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme have since transported the eggs to an incubator where they will have a greater chance of survival.

“We paired the animals pretty early this year, around January, so the last four months they’ve been breeding and she’s been producing eggs and she finally laid them,” said operations manager Nick Ebanks.

If any of the hatchlings survive, they will mark the first successful breeding since 2015, Ebanks said.

“We did have some eggs last year, but as it was reported, the entire clutch failed. Last year was seven eggs,” he said.

“This year is 18 eggs from only one pair out of the six that we had paired. So I think we have a very good chance of having

some survivors this year.”

While Lady Pop continues to protect her nesting ground out of territorial instinct, Ebanks said her eggs are actually safer inside the incubator.

Blue iguana eggs are ready for the incubator. – Photos: Blue Iguana Recovery Programme

“They have very little maternal instincts,” he said. “The most she wants to do is guard her nesting mounds to make sure no other females use it. But she doesn’t know whether the eggs are there or not. Then, after a week or two, she leaves the nesting mound alone and she pretty much abandons her eggs.

“If we leave the eggs inside the pen, she could also kill them as soon as they come out because of how territorial [iguanas] are. So the motherly instinct dies very quickly.”

The eggs are being stored in the incubator at 32 degrees centigrade in a vermiculite and water mixture meant to mimic soil conditions. The eggs should hatch in about 70 days.