Anegada Iguana (Cyclura pinguis)
Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 1025880
The mission of the International Iguana Foundation (IIF) is to “ensure the survival of iguanas and their habitats through conservation, awareness, and scientific programs." The IIF’s primary objectives include raising public awareness concerning threats facing iguanas and their role in the ecosystem, restoring iguana species and their habitats through field research and conservation, and providing critical support to iguana recovery programs. Species supported by the IIF occur primarily in the Caribbean islands, Central America and Fiji islands. Program focus is on species ranked Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List, including the Anegada iguana (Cyclura pinguis). The geographic range of C. pinguis is the tiny island of Anegada (39 km2) in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). Unfortunately, the tropical dry forest habitat of Anegada is one of the most threatened forest types in the world. The arrival of Europeans resulted in the introduction of non-native mammal species. Because the West Indies have been geographically isolated, iguanas are vulnerable to the introduction of new predator species, e.g. cats and mongoose. Land clearing destroys habitat, feral livestock severely over-browse native vegetation and food plants, and feral cats kill almost all iguana hatchlings each year. As a result, the population has been declining for decades and consists almost entirely of aging adults occupying only a small fraction of the island. Population estimates from the mid 1990’s indicate that this species has undergone an 80% decline in numbers since the late 1960’s, making it one of the most endangered lizards in the world. As a result, the Anegada iguana ranks among the highest conservation priorities for the IUCN Iguana Specialist Group (ISG). In fact, C. pinguis is an ancient lineage, and from a genetic diversity standpoint, conserving this species will preserve the greatest amount of evolutionary potential within the genus Cyclura. Full recovery of the Anegada iguana will require habitat protection and eradication of feral mammals - both long-term goals that we are actively pursuing with our in-country partners at the BVI National Parks Trust. Recent progress includes a proposed National Park that encompasses 95% of all known iguana nests, and a comprehensive feral mammal eradication plan. In response to high juvenile mortality associated with feral cat predation, and to increase wild population recruitment, a successful headstarting and release program was initiated. Since 2003, 115 headstarted iguanas have been released into natural habitat where they survive and integrate with the wild population. A post–release survival rate estimated at 80% provides cause for optimism, however this species remains conservation dependent. In 2006 the ISG produced a Species Recovery Plan (SRP) outlining actions needed to save the Anegada iguana. Three main objectives include 1) enhance the effectiveness of the headstart/release program in order to maximize recruitment into the wild population, 2) collect scientific data to aid in the long-term recovery and management of the wild population, 3) implement a comprehensive public outreach program, using the Anegada iguana as a flagship species. The proposed activities directly support implementation of this SRP.
Project 1025880 location - British Virgin Islands, North America