Once considered the world’s rarest iguana, the history of the race to save the Grand Cayman blue iguana, Cyclura lewisi, from extinction is a true story of conservation optimism.
Due to the success of a focused species conservation project, by 2012, C. lewisi had been down listed on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species from Critically Endangered to Endangered, reflecting the inspiring recovery effort achieved with less than 25 individuals in 2001, when the programme officially began. Through the management of an effective captive breeding, head starting and release programme, the recovery efforts continued for the species: in 2018, the original project vision of “restoring a population of at least one thousand wild blue iguanas” was achieved with the release of the 1,000th blue iguana into the Salina Reserve. Detailed genetic research shows that the management and meticulous preservation of founder lines has meant that the on-island captive population has not expressed an inbreeding depression, therefore demonstrating a successful, genetically viable conservation breeding programme to date.
The future is full of challenges to ensure our new vision statement outlined in our upcoming five-year plan:
“Establish and maintain a genetically and demographically resilient population of at least 1,000 mature Grand Cayman blue iguanas, living wild within and around protected areas, ensuring they will be supported and celebrated as a flagship species for the long term”.
In the five-year action plan, Blue Iguana Conservation summarises all of the current knowledge, marks the amazing species recovery achievements to date, highlights the challenges facing this species and provides optimistic and achievable solutions to conserve blue iguanas. These involve community-based initiatives, such as our Blue Iguana Gardens initiative, our International Blue Iguana Day celebration and larger long-term goals, with the most significant being the creation of the first ‘Habitat Island’ on Grand Cayman.
Our optimistic and solutions-driven approach towards conservation makes us a perfect fit to satisfy the vision of Conservation Optimism, and the remarkable journey of this project really does inspire and prove the positive impact that conservation projects can make to a species. We hope that by partnering with you, we would be able to work together to promote our positive and solution-driven approach by sharing our story of conservation optimism across a wider platform, along with helping to inspire other conservationists, generate new project ideas and ensure a safe future for this incredible species.