Concerted Caribbean effort for Lesser Antillean iguana

Stenapa’s ranger Rupnor Redan (left) has caught an invasive green iguana on Anguilla and checks it with colleagues from Blijdorp Zoo in Rotterdam (the Netherlands), Les Fruits de Mer (St. Maarten) and Anguilla National Trust. (Stenapa photo)

ST. EUSTATIUS–A team of St. Eustatius National Parks Foundation Stenapa has laid the fundamentals for a Caribbean conservation plan for the Lesser Antillean iguana during a workshop in Anguilla last week.

The native iguana is endangered and can only be found in St. Eustatius, Anguilla, St. Barths, Martinique, Guadeloupe and Dominica. It has already become extinct on St. Maarten, where the Green iguana has taken over and is now becoming a pest.

Representatives of the islands with remaining Lesser Antillean iguanas shared their ideas during the workshop about how to build a bright future for their native iguana. All islands share the main threats to their native iguana, such as habitat loss due to roaming goats, predation by wild cats and rats, car accidents, poaching and the arrival of the invasive green iguana.

Apart from that, the present Iguana population in Statia is possibly not viable, because they are divided over little hotspots with little contact between each other and little genetic exchange. Therefore, Stenapa works on improving connectivity, putting in place checks of incoming containers at the harbour and decreasing the numbers of roaming goats and wild cats.

In Anguilla, the situation with the iguana has become so critical that the Anguilla National Trust trans-locates the last individuals to small uninhabited Prickly Pear Island.

During one of the night patrols in Anguilla last week Stenapa’s National Parks Ranger Rupnor Redan found one of the last remaining native iguanas. It has been put in quarantine and will be sent to Prickly Pear after genetic testing.

Besides Redan, the Stenapa team was represented by Director Clarisse Buma, Tim van Wagensveld of Reptile, Amphibian and Fish Conservation Netherlands RAVON and Sandra Bijhold of the Rotterdam Zoo.

“This workshop was very inspiring. We want to increase the cooperation with especially Anguilla and St. Barths. We can learn from each other. Anguilla is interested to have an exchange with our ranger and do night patrols with them. And Stenapa can learn from St, Barths, where they made progress in the field of checking sea containers for invasive species. I am looking forward to bring our recovery plan a step further,” Buma said.

The development of the recovery plan is supported by the European Union’s Best 2.0 programme for overseas territories.

Source: The Daily Herald