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Species360 Welcomes Blue Iguana Recovery Programme

As a member of Species360, the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme will use the Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS) to help ensure the care and conservation of in situ and ex situ populations. Special thanks to Mazuri for sponsoring the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme and its Species360 membership.

National Trust, Grand Cayman‘s Blue Iguana Recovery Programme works with partners such as IUCN Iguana Specialist Group, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and San Diego Zoo Global to manage in situ and ex situ populations of the endangered species.

Found only on Grand Cayman, the blue iguana (Cyclura lewisi) is among the most endangered reptiles in the world. Once numbering in the thousands, the population was decimated by development, cats, dogs, people, and cars. By 2002, only 15-20 iguanas remained in the wild.

To save the species from extinction in the wild, the National Trust for the Cayman Islands initiated the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme in 1990 with 30 individuals. The IUCN Iguana Specialist Group and programme partners such as Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the San Diego Zoo Global’s Conservation and Research for Endangered Species Department, quickly helped to form a strategy for success.

“While the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme is a physically small center, we have made significant progress in the area of species management,” said Luke Harding, Blue Iguana Programme Operations Manager, in a letter. “We’ve integrated both the captive and wild populations into one studbook, in support of the movement of animals back and forth between these populations.”

Today, the programme combines captive breeding, recovery of eggs from wild nests, head-starting hatchlings with release to protected areas on Grand Cayman, and habitat enhancement and protection. The results are encouraging: more than 500 free-ranging Grand Cayman iguanas inhabit three sites on Grand Cayman — many of which are iguanas that were hatched and head-started in captivity before release to the wild, or their offspring.

That success is thanks to a well-coordinated effort among partners in the zoo and aquarium community, says Nadia Hardie, Executive Director, Blue Iguana Recovery Programme. The programme continues to receive and coordinate critical involvement from numerous partners, including San Diego Zoo Global, which manages the studbook; Island Vets, a local Grand Cayman veterinary clinic that provides medical care; and WCS (New York) and St. Matthews Veterinary School (Grand Cayman), for pathology; WCS for health screening records; and the National Trust for database management and support.

“One historical, ever-present obstacle has been providing access to all of this information by each of the various partners,” said Harding. “With Species360 membership and use of ZIMS, all partners can easily and securely enter and access information from any of their physical locations. ZIMS will deliver a critical solution to our information management and species conservation needs.”

The programme’s long-term goal is to restore a wild population that is large enough to sustain the species, as well as to establish a genetically diverse backup captive population at collaborating zoos around the world.

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