Much has now been done to try and save the Jamaican ground iguana, and this rare lizard is now a flagship species for conservation in the West Indies (6). The Jamaican ground iguana is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which prohibits international trade in this species (5), and it is also listed as ‘Endangered’ on the U.S. Endangered Species Act (14). The Portland Bight Protected Area where the Jamaican ground iguana occurs is Jamaica’s largest protected area (1) (7), although its legal protection needs greater enforcement (1) (2).
The Jamaican Iguana Recovery Group was established in 1990 to conduct habitat and population surveys as well as predator control and research into the natural history of the Jamaican ground iguana (1) (2). The group also focuses on education, raising international awareness, and protecting and restoring the iguana’s habitat (1).
In 2006, the Jamaican Iguana Species Recovery Plan was created with plans to create a predator-free dry forest reserve and establish satellite populations of the Jamaican ground iguana on the neighbouring Goat Islands, where it formerly occurred. This has been identified as the single most important activity to ensure the long-term recovery of the Jamaican ground iguana, but goats and predators must be removed from the islands before the iguanas can be reintroduced (1) (2) (6) (13).
Another important conservation measure for the Jamaican ground iguana has been captive breeding programmes. These were commenced in various U.S. zoos in association with Jamaica’s Hope Zoo, funded by the International Iguana Foundation, to raise awareness and provide opportunities for reintroduction (1) (2) (6) (8) (10). As part of this programme, juvenile iguanas taken from wild nests are brought into captivity and reared until they are large enough to ward off predators, a process known as ‘headstarting’ (2) (7) (9) (13).
‘Headstarted’ juvenile iguanas are later released into the wild, and are fitted with radio transmitters so they can be followed (2) (7) (13). Reintroductions began in 1996, with high survival rates and successful integration of released iguanas into the wild population (1) (6). A predator control programme is also underway in the Hellshire Hills (1) (2) (6) (9), and zoos are helping to raise funds for conservation efforts in the field, which include nest protection, education work and further research (2) (9) (13).
As a result of these efforts, the Jamaican ground iguana is beginning to make a comeback (1) (9), and the recovery effort for this species has been seen as a model conservation programme (13). However, this rare lizard remains dependent on active conservation measures, without which it would be at an extremely high risk of extinction (9).