Thursday, 14 March 2013

Triumph of the blues - iconic iguana saved by trade ban

The idyllic Caribbean island of Grand Cayman is perhaps best known for the azure tint to the sea lapping against its white sandy shores.

But there is another famous Cayman blue - a species of large, long living lizard native to the island.

The blue iguana is the island's biggest land animal.

But size isn't everything when it comes to survival.

Back in 2002 there were just a dozen or so of these giants left.

“That's really pretty important, even if we get to 1,000 there is no way that we can sustain a harvest for the pet trade”

Fred Burton, Blue Iguana Recovery Programme
The reason for the decline were the old reliables - the destruction of their habitat and the encroachment of humans. The species was decimated by car accidents and attacks from dogs and cats. At one point it was the most threatened iguana species on the planet.

Now though there are around 750 of the creatures, land has been set aside for them, they are being released and are successfully breeding in the wild.

To all intents and purposes, the blue iguana has been saved.

So how has this happened when so many other species such as the Golden Toad or the Liverpool Pigeon have simply disappeared over the same period?

One of the factors is a breeding programme run by the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme that protects the young lizards in their first couple of years when they are especially vulnerable.

International agreement
But another important factor according to Fred Burton who runs the programme, is the influence of an international agreement called the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites).

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