Show Details

Saving Rock Iguanas

January 28, 2014

Rock iguanas are the most endangered lizards in the world. But captive breeding is helping bring them back.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Saving rock iguanas. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A baby Jamaican iguana at the San Diego Zoo Conservation Research Institute rock iguana breeding facility. (Susanne Bard)

A baby Jamaican iguana at the San Diego Zoo Conservation Research Institute rock iguana breeding facility. (Susanne Bard)

The Grand Cayman blue iguana is one of the world’s  most endangered lizards.

JEFF LEMM (San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research):

If one hurricane or other catastrophic event hits Grand Cayman, it can wipe out the entire population.

HIRSHON:

That’s herpetologist Jeff Lemm of the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. He says all rock iguana species are imperiled by introduced predators, poachers, and habitat destruction. But there’s good news: captive breeding success is improving every year. Lemm says the San Diego iguana breeding facility was specially designed to mimic natural conditions.

LEMM:

Mortality is low to nonexistent, and we usually have 100% of the babies surviving.

HIRSHON:

He says rock iguanas are vital to the ecosystems of the West Indies.

LEMM:

As herbivores the iguanas are the most important seed dispersers on the islands, they’re the ones keeping the forests healthy, and once they’re gone, the forests just go straight downhill.

HIRSHON:

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

A male

A male Grand Cayman blue iguana at the captive breeding facility. (Susanne Bard)