A tour of the Blue Iguana Conservation’s captive breeding facility offers an up-close-and-personal view of the Blue Iguana (Cyclura lewisi), Grand Cayman’s largest native land animal. The tour introduces guests to some of the programme’s star breeders and shares the fascinating tale of how the programme began in 1990, with only 30 dedicated Blue Iguanas, under the direction of conservationist Fred Burton. Today, the breeding facility is home to approximately 100 Blue Iguanas of varying ages, many over five-feet long and in excess of 25 pounds.
The Blue Iguana once numbered in the tens of thousands but over decades the population was decimated by development, wild animals, vehicular traffic and human population. By 2001, fewer than 30 individuals were estimated to remain in the wild and the species was listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Formerly known as the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme, the initial goal of the programme was to restore a wild population of 1,000 Blue Iguanas in order to encourage a viable population in the long-term. Due to the efforts of the programme, the Blue Iguanas were downgraded from the IUCN’s “red list” to endangered in 2012.
By 2018, we released our 1,000th Blue Iguana, celebrating an important milestone for the programme.
In 2019, we began the transition from restoring the wild population of Blue Iguanas to 1,000 individuals towards sustainably conserving the species, which led the to official rebrand as the Blue Iguana Conservation programme.
The programme received two major grants in our 2018/19 fiscal year: £197,902 from the UK-based Darwin Plus Initiative and US$50,000 from US-based Disney Conservation Fund. The grants will fund the second phase of the programme, which includes an enhanced breeding facility, improved husbandry and added manpower to monitor the Blue Iguanas now roaming our Salina Reserve and Colliers Wilderness Reserve. It will also address challenges such as disease prevention and encroaching predators.
Partners & Stakeholders
Blue Iguana Conservation (BIC), is run by the National Trust for the Cayman Islands, however, the project has long been supported by partners and key stakeholders across the globe. On Grand Cayman, BIC works closely with the Cayman Islands Department of Environment and the QE II Botanic Park. BIC has previously received expertise and resources from the International Reptile Conservation Foundation (IRCF) and The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. Currently, BIC’s major partners are Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) at the Bronx Zoo and San Diego Zoo.
The Cayman Islands Department of Environment Strategies to protect areas; conservation law and enforcement; government interface; scientific support.
The Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park Site of captive facility; test site for wild blue iguana population restoration.
Wildlife Conservation Society (Bronx Zoo) Veterinary assistance for captive blue iguanas.
San Diego Zoo Studbook record keeping and breeding recommendations.
Partners and key stakeholders meet every four years to update and develop the Strategic Species Action Plan for Grand Cayman blue iguanas and WCS carry out annual veterinary assessments with the captive blues.
International Reptile Conservation Foundation (IRCF)
IRCF are long term partners of Blue Iguana conservation and have supported BIC in key areas such as fundraising, publications, website management and public outreach and engagement.
Darwin Plus, the UK Overseas Territories Environment and Climate Fund
Blue Iguana Conservation is currently supported by a Darwin Plus grant from the Darwin Initiative, entitled “Transition Blue Iguana Conservation to sustain conservation success”. This grant has allowed for improvements to the captive facility, husbandry and diet of our iguanas and continued field research on the wild populations. The grant has also helped to fund the creation and development of a new five-year action plan to help provide a focused effort to conserve blue iguanas.
Caring for our Blue Iguanas requires daily food collection, meal preparation and pen cleaning, as well as project-based tasks, and would not be possible without the assistance of volunteers. Residents and visitors alike are welcome to join us in our mission to conserve this native species in the following ways:
General Volunteers: minimal commitment of once weekly to help with feeding and food collection, pen cleaning and some light maintenance work.
Skilled Labourers: project-based work such as gardening, plumbing, electrical, painting, carpentry or any other type of skilled labour. Opportunities available for daily, weekly or long-term projects.
International Volunteers: an excellent opportunity for hands-on experience with our Blue Iguanas. All skill sets welcome. Minimum commitment of two weeks.
Blue iguanas are Grand Cayman’s most endangered species. Being large, herbivorous reptiles, they mainly feed upon natural vegetation within their shrubland forest habitat on the East End of the island.
As Grand Cayman aspires to increase the population of Caymanian residents, much of the blue iguana habitat is now being depleted to make way for housing and agricultural land, which means that it is harder to find available space and food sources for blue iguanas.
Blue Iguana Conservation, run by The National Trust for the Cayman Islands, is a project that strives to protect and conserve these charismatic animals by monitoring protected blue iguana areas and maintaining a conservation breeding facility in North Side, which is open to the public.
The Blue Iguana Gardens initiative is aimed to engage the Caymanian community in identifying areas within private yards and gardens in order to grow and maintain supplemental food sources for the blue iguanas housed at the conservation breeding facility. By empowering the general public to become involved in growing food plants, the pressure on wild food collection sites will be eased and Cayman will become better engaged with this incredible species that is not found anywhere else in the world!
Join the Blue Iguana Conservation (BIC) team for a half-day VIP experience at the conservation facility!
Get exclusive behind-the-scenes access to Grand Cayman’s famous and endemic blue iguana under the supervision of the BIC wardens. Join them on their morning routine to receive an insider’s experience into what it takes to conserve these amazing lizards.
You will be involved in various activities such as:
Exploring sites around the island to learn about iguana diets and collect some food plants for them
Cleaning their semi-wild habitats and learning where their favourite basking spots are
Preparing food and feeding the iguanas (the iguanas love this bit!)
Learning about our conservation breeding efforts and have special access to the new nursery
Finding out about the conservation fieldwork that is carried out by the BIC team
Accompanying the wardens on one of their public tours where you will hear about the history, our partners and the continuing success of the project.
CI$92/ US$115 per person
Tour approximately 3-4 hours
Minimum Age: 16 years and under must be accompanied by an adult
*Private Tours available on request
For reservations and more information, contact us today