Hispaniolan ground iguana (Cyclura ricordii)

Also known as: Ricord’s ground iguana, Ricord’s iguana
Synonyms: Aloponotus ricordii, Cyclura ricordi
French: Cyclure de Ricord, Cyclure d'Hispaniola, Iguane de Ricord
Spanish: La Iguana Ricordi
GenusCyclura (1)
SizeMale snout-to-vent length: up to 49.5 cm (2)
Female snout-to-vent length: up to 43.0 cm (2)

Classified as Critically Endangered (CR A1ce + 2cd, B1 + 2ce) on the IUCN Red List 2004 (1), and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

The Hispaniolan ground iguana is a sizeable, robust iguana, easily recognised by the enlarged spiny scales that wrap in transverse rings around the tail, and by its highly distinctive colouration. Five to six pale grey vertical stripes alternate with dark grey to black stripes either side of the body, and meet at the spiny protrusion running down the centre of the back. Colour patterns show very little individual or developmental variation, with the exception that greater contrast between stripes exists in juveniles than in adults (4).

As its common name alludes, the Hispaniolan ground iguana is found on the island of Hispaniola, where it shares its habitat with the larger rhinoceros iguana (Cyclura cornuta cornuta) (1). Endemic to this island, which contains the nations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic (5), the Hispaniolan ground iguana exists in two populations separated by the natural ecological barrier of the Sierra de Baoruco mountains (1).

Cyclura iguanas are terrestrial animals, spending most of their time on the ground (5). In comparison with the rhinoceros iguana (Cyclura cornuta cornuta), the Hispaniolan ground iguana is relatively specialised, occupying the most arid regions of the Dominican Republic, where the climate is highly seasonal, and is strongly associated with thorn scrub woodlands, particularly with the thorn scrub-dry forest ecotone (1).

Hispaniolan ground iguanas dig separate soil burrows for shelter and nesting, which they continue to expand over time, although hollow tree trunks and rock cavities are also used when soil is unavailable. Females reach sexual maturity at approximately 2-3 years and breeding takes place once a year. Egg-laying is precisely timed to coincide with the first rainy season from May to June, with anything from 2-18 eggs laid per clutch, with an average of 11. Incubation lasts 95-100 days, after which hatching takes place in synchrony with the second rainy season from September to October (4).

Although insects and crustaceans will be taken on an opportunistic basis, Hispaniolan ground iguanas predominantly feed on a variety of plants and plant parts (1).

Regrettably, the major threats facing the Hispaniolan ground iguana are habitat degradation and loss as a result of human activities, which include logging of hardwoods, harvesting for charcoal production and fuel wood, over grazing and trampling by free-ranging livestock, mining of limestone, and illegal collection of live cacti for local and international trade. Additionally, this iguana is threatened by local subsistence hunting and predation from introduced carnivores such as dogs, cats, and mongooses. Hunting for Hispaniolan ground iguanas for food and trade has increased gradually since the mid 1970s, this species at one time being served at oriental restaurants in Santo Domingo as a speciality dish (1).

International trade in the Hispaniolan ground iguana is controlled by its listing under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (3). Compliance with CITES trade regulations is largely effective, although occasional smuggling of animals across the Haitian border does still occur. Enforcement of national protective legislation in the Dominican Republic has improved in the last few years, but fails to go far enough, since clearing of natural habitat for development is neither being prevented nor regulated and illegal hunting for food and the local pet market continues (1). However, the Isla Cabritos range, which used to be intensively exploited for hardwood cutting, charcoal, and livestock grazing, has undergone extensive natural regeneration in the last 15 years, and improved protective management since 1992 has meant present conditions there are stable (4). Indianapolis Zoo has had a small but successful captive breeding programme, although survivorship of young has been low (1), and there are plans to re-establish new breeding colonies at both the Parque Zoologico Nacional (ZooDom) in the Dominican Republic and the Indianapolis Zoo (4). The establishment of local educational awareness campaigns to try to reduce illegal hunting, the strengthening and enforcing of protective legislation, and the implementation of research, monitoring and recovery programmes will be essential in guiding effective conservation efforts in the future (2).

For further information on this species see:

IUCN SSC Iguana Specialist Group:

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:

  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2005)
  2. Cyclura.com (September, 2005)
  3. CITES (September, 2005)
  4. IUCN SSC Iguana Specialist Group (September, 2005)
  5. The Cold Blooded News. The Newsletter of the Colorado Herpetological Society August 2004 (September, 2005)