The Great Iguana Comeback


The Jamaican rock iguana, a critically endangered species, is making a comeback. Credit Robin Moore

We love comeback stories! Here is a great one from an island country that was featured in these pages much more last year, and we miss hearing about the place:

Jamaican Rock Iguanas Get a Shot at a New Home in the Wild


Meet the Jamaican rock iguana. Its scaly body stretches around two feet long, tail not included. Slate blue spikes stick up along its spine, and a saggy sac of loose skin wraps around its head like a hoodless cowl. When cornered, it strikes with its front claws — one reportedly ripped an eye from a dog.

Once common in Jamaica, this iguana is now among the most endangered species in the world. And without the hard work of many conservationists, it would probably be extinct. Now those conservationists are hopeful that a decision that appears to have been made about the construction of a seaport in Jamaica could make restoring this lizard to the wild a little easier.

Despite its armored appearance and tenacious lizard traits, the Jamaican iguana has barely survived a variety of threats: hunters, predators like mongooses (but also feral dogs, cats and pigs) and more recently habitat destruction for charcoal production. In fact, it was thought to be extinct until 1990, when a hog hunter’s dog sniffed out a living, breathing animal in the forests of Hellshire Hills in Jamaica.

Since then, the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Iguana Specialist Group, an international team of universities, conservationists and zoos, and others like the Jamaica Iguana Recovery Group, have jumped in to protect the iguanas, which are now amid a comeback. In the wild, the groups help sustain 300 breeding pairs living within a remote, six-square-mile area of the Hellshire Hills. But maintaining nearly every aspect of the lizards’ lives was never the intention of their helpers. The original plan was to return the iguanas to a habitat where they once thrived, the Goat Islands, a mile off Jamaica’s mainland. There, they could live threat-free and relatively unhelped by humans…

Read the whole article here.


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