Saving the Turks and Caicos rock iguana

Turks and Caicos rock iguana. Image: Giuliano Colosimo

Perhaps, like me, you thought that the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) focused exclusively on bird conservation. I was surprised to learn that they are also working to conserve, among other species, the critically endangered Turks and Caicos Rock Iguana (Cylcura carinata, also known as the Bahamas rock iguana), via a multi-partner project “Saving the Iguana Islands of Turks and Caicos“:

Some 150 km north of the Dominican Republic, at the southern end of the Lucayan Archipelago, lie the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). This British oversea territory is home to many endemic species of vertebrates. The most notable and charismatic is the Turks and Caicos Rock Iguana, Cyclura carinata. This species is listed as Critically Endangered in the IUCN-Red List of Threatened Species. Human-mediated habitat destruction and introduced invasive predators (such as feral cats, dogs and rodents) represent two of the main threats for this native reptile.

In April 2017 the Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB) in collaboration with the TCI-Department of Environmental and Coastal Resources (DECR), the TCI-Department of Agriculture (DoA), the TCI-National Trust (TCNT), the Institute for Conservation Research (San Diego Zoo Global), and Ambergris Cays Facilities Ltd., launched a 3 year project, funded by the UK Government’s Darwin-Plus Initiative, entitled “Saving the Iguana Islands of Turks and Caicos”. The aim of this project is to secure the future of the Turks and Caicos Rock Iguana through the establishment of effective biosecurity plans and the monitoring and identification of suitable islands for future restoration of the species

No conservation initiative is bound to succeed without the help of local organisations and people. That is why, as part of the project to save the iguanas and their islands in the TCI, we dedicate special attention to build capacity and exchange skills and experiences with the local staff of our partners, Turks and Caicos National Trust, Department for Environment and Coastal Resources (DECR) and Department of Agriculture (DoA) and the local community.

Ultimately, the community are the ones going to make a difference for the future of the TCI. Every field season, members of the TCNT, under the supervision of Dr. Della Higgs, join us during our iguana monitoring. The project benefits directly from their participation because they receive additional training (Fig. 10) and update us on some important facts happening on the different islands while we are off site. At the same time, they also organize initiatives directly targeted to the education of the young students in the TCI. For example, during our last field trip in August, we had a special guest joining us during the field sampling and processing of iguanas. Rocky is the TCI Iguana mascot, as part of a public awareness campaign funded by the EU BEST Initiative. Thanks to him, generations of young students get acquainted to the natural beauty of their local resources, and learn important things about the iguanas.

Read more about the project and its accomplishments in Giuliano Colosimo’s full post on the RSPB blog

[Image: Giuliano Colosimo]

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