Statia iguanas are doing well at Rotterdam Zoo | THE DAILY HERALD

St. Eustatius Government Commissioner Marcolino “Mike” Franco and caretaker Sandra Bijholt of the Rotterdam Blijdorp Zoo carrying one of the two crates holding the iguanas to the Winair charter aircraft at Statia’s F.D. Roosevelt Airport in May this year. (Photo by Althea Merkman)


ROTTERDAM–The four St. Eustatius iguanas that were transported in May this year to the Netherlands on board the Dutch government jet together with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte are doing well at their new home, the Rotterdam Blijdorp Zoo.

The four Antillean iguanas feel very at home at the Rotterdam zoo. “They are doing excellent,” said caretaker Sandra Bijholt in an interview with Rotterdam’s Rijnmond RTV. “They started eating within 10 days. They love their new habitat which has been set up in a natural way with lots of green and branches at different heights. That provides shelter which makes them feel comfortable.”

The recent scaling up of the status of the Antillean iguana, Iguana delicatissima, from “endangered” to “critically endangered” on the red list of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is making it even more important for the breeding programme, in which the four iguanas will participate, to succeed.

Only a few hundred Antillean iguanas remain on St. Eustatius, Anguilla and Dominica. The species is under threat from traffic, cats, dogs, hunting and the loss of habitat, but the greatest danger comes from hybridisation with the bigger and stronger green iguana which is abundant on all Caribbean islands.

According to Bijholt, the critically endangered status of the Antillean iguana means that there is an even greater urgency to protect these animals. However, the four iguanas are still rather young and are not completely ready for the breeding programme that will be carried out together with two other zoos, one in Austria and one in England. These zoos also have a few Antillean iguanas.

“The animals have to get totally used to their new surroundings. They are just reaching their adult state. We expect to have a positive breeding result somewhere next year,” said Bijholt, who accompanied the animals from St. Eustatius to the Netherlands in May. The four iguanas are currently still in their three-month quarantine period.

Later this year, the four Statia iguanas will move to a new nature preservation centre at the Rotterdam Blijdorp Zoo. The construction of this new accommodation with the financial aid of the Friends of Blijdorp started on Thursday.

The Statia iguanas made headlines in the Dutch media in May. The animals are even referred to as the “Rutte iguanas,” because they travelled on the same plane as the Dutch prime minister after his visit to the Windward Islands. Winair provided the transport from St. Eustatius to St. Maarten, whence the Dutch government jet flew to the Netherlands.

Source: The Daily Herald