Cayman Island blue iguana (Cyclura lewisi)

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Cayman Island blue iguana in habitat
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Cayman Island blue iguana fact file

Cayman Island blue iguana description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassReptilia
OrderSquamata
FamilyIguanidae
GenusCyclura (1)

Endemic to Grand Cayman, this magnificently striking blue iguana is one of the most endangered lizards on Earth (4). Indeed, at the time of its original description in 1940 the Cayman Island blue iguana was already considered to be on the brink of extinction (5). Blue iguanas normally possess a blue-grey complexion when resting (6) but are better known for the stunning azure blue they turn during the breeding season or when excited (4) (6). The Cayman Island blue iguana is a relatively large iguana (7), with males larger than females (2). Previously listed as the subspecies Cyclura nubila lewisi, this iguana has recently been recognized as a full species, Cyclura lewisi (1).

Also known as
Cayman Island ground iguana, Grand Cayman blue iguana, Grand Cayman iguana.
Synonyms
Cyclura nubila lewisi.
Size
Male snout-to-vent length: up to 51.5 cm (2)
Female snout-to-vent length: up to 41.0 cm (2)
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Cayman Island blue iguana biology

Females live a solitary life, warning others to stay away from their small territory with vigorous head bobbing gestures (4). Males and females come together only to breed, and, like all Cyclura, breed annually. 1 to 22 eggs are laid depending on the female’s age and size (1), and are then incubated in the nest chamber that is dug about a foot below the surface of the soil (7). Hatchlings are vulnerable to native snakes (Alsophis cantherigerus caymanus) and have a high mortality rate (1).

Primarily herbivorous, these iguanas have been observed to consume 45 different plant species from 24 different families (6) (7). When available, they also feed on fruit, and have even been seen feeding on fungus, crabs, soil, and excrement (7).

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Cayman Island blue iguana range

Once ranging throughout Grand Cayman, this iguana is now found only in the High Rock-Battle Hill area to the east and south of the Queen’s Highway. The unmanaged wild population is sparse and dispersed, and estimated in 2002 at just 10 – 25 individuals (1).

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Cayman Island blue iguana habitat

These blue iguanas usually occupy dry evergreen thickets and bush land, as well as man-modified habitats (6) (7). These adaptable iguanas utilize a variety of natural and semi-disturbed habitats in response to temperature needs, food, nesting, predator pressure, and human interference (7).

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Cayman Island blue iguana status

The Cayman Island blue iguana is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered

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Cayman Island blue iguana threats

Once abundant, the Cayman Island blue iguana has been quietly heading for extinction in the wild since the colonization of the West Indian islands (4). Like other iguana species this beautiful creature is subject to many human-related threats, including: destruction of habitats for farming, residential and commercial developments; road casualties; trapping or shooting by farmers, who perceive iguanas as a threat to their crops; and predation by wild and domestic cats and dogs (4) (7). Large scale deforestation and road construction has also increased enormously in the eastern districts over the last decade, and is only expected to accelerate (7).

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Cayman Island blue iguana conservation

The Cayman Island blue iguana is fully protected under local legislation, and kept out of international trade by its listing on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (1). The National Trust for the Cayman Islands has established an integrated conservation programme incorporating research, habitat protection, captive breeding, re-introduction/restocking, and conservation education (7). These iguanas are being bred successfully in captivity and are subsequently released after two years into the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park and Salina Reserve (1) (4). Blue iguana populations in this reserve are being promoted as a major ecotourism attraction, proving beneficial to both the Park and the iguanas (1). It seems that the future of wild blue iguanas must rest on managed populations in protected areas, but suitable land is scarce on Grand Cayman (4). Thus, despite encouraging conservation efforts, the Cayman Island blue iguana still clings to a precarious existence (5), and more protected land must be obtained if there is any hope of securing its future in the wild (4).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

For further information on the Cayman Island blue iguanas see:

IUCN Iguana Specialist Group:
http://www.iucn-isg.org/index.php

Blue Iguana Recovery Program:
http://www.blueiguana.ky/

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Herbivorous
Diet comprises only vegetable matter.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (February, 2013) 
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/  
  2. Cyclura.com (October, 2005)
    http://www.cyclura.com
  3. CITES (October, 2005)
    http://www.cites.org
  4. Blue Iguana Recovery Program (October, 2005)
    http://www.blueiguana.ky/
  5. University of Michigan (October, 2005)
    http://www.umich.edu/~esupdate/library/96.07-08/hudson.html
  6. Central Florida Zoo (October, 2005)
    http://www.centralfloridazoo.org
  7. IUCN Iguana Specialist Group (October, 2005)
    http://www.iucn-isg.org/index.php
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Cayman Island blue iguana in habitat  
Cayman Island blue iguana in habitat

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