Groundwork begins for 2020-2025 blue iguana recovery plan

One of several blue Iguanas that freely roam the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. – PHOTO: TANEOS RAMSAY

Work has started on laying the foundation for the National Trust’s 2020-2025 Species Recovery Plan for Cayman’s blue iguana.

The Trust, in a media statement Tuesday, said it held its first comprehensive planning exercise for the initiative through an intensive three-day workshop recently.

It involved more than 20 local and international stakeholders and specialists in the zoological field.

In addition to delivering the 2020-2025 Species Recovery Plan, the workshop will update the National Biodiversity Action Plan 2009 for the blue iguana, the Trust statement added.

It said this was the first time in 10 years that experts and stakeholders came together “with the focus of refining the vision for the Blue Iguana programme”.

Luke Harding, operations manager of the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme, said the workshop was “a great opportunity to network, brainstorm, share our experiences and ultimately determine what is best for the livelihood of the Grand Cayman Blue Iguana and what steps will be essential for a successful Phase II”.

Participants included Paul Calle, chief veterinarian and director of the Zoological Health Programme at the Wildlife Conservation Society, and Kenneth Conley, senior pathologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Conley, the release stated, has been analysing tissue samples of the blues and communicating with the Trust team for many years, but this was his first visit to the Cayman Islands.

“The workshop offered me a much deeper understanding of the programme and the threats facing the species,” he said.

During the workshop, the release said, the Trust and its stakeholders also discussed updating and developing objectives for habitat management, understanding the breeding and dispersal of the wild populations and meeting ever-increasing threats to blue iguana survival from invasive species and disease.

Participants visited the National Trust’s Colliers Wilderness Reserve, Salina Reserve and the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, the Trust’s three chosen blue iguana release sites.

While at the Salina Reserve, attendees hiked to the latest land addition, which was recently purchased by the Royal Society for Protection of Birds in conjunction with the Rainforest Trust. The land was leased to the National Trust. They also got to see an adult male blue iguana in the wild.

The Trust said the workshop was funded using money from the Darwin Plus Initiative Grant it secured in 2018, as well as with contributions from the Department of Environment and Wildlife Conservation Strategy.

It brought together international industry experts from the San Diego Zoo, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Institute for Conservation Research, the Fort Worth Zoo, the Conservation Specialist Planning Group, and local partners from the DOE, QEII Botanic Park and Island Veterinary Service.

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