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A Labour of Love: Saving Cayman’s Blue Iguanas

Front Pages 08 Jan, 2020 Follow News

A Labour of Love: Saving Cayman’s Blue Iguanas

A Labour of Love: Saving Cayman’s Blue Iguanas

A Labour of Love: Saving Cayman’s Blue Iguanas

The fight to save one of the worlds rarest and most revered lizards is raging in Grand Cayman and there have been many organizations and individuals whom have played a crucial role in saving this creature.

Alberto Esteban, who works with the Islands’ National Trust, has been working to understand their behavior and  is at the forefront of the efforts to save the animals, spends most of his time with the creatures.

Originally Hailing from Costa Rica, Mr. Esteban came to the Cayman Islands in 1970 and initially worked at the Galleon Beach, as well as the Holiday Inn as a bartender before going back to South America, where he joined and environmental group - working to save sea turtles.

Upon returning to the British Territory some years later, he began working as a volunteer with the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme and was eventually offered an official job by Mr. Fred Burton; one of the programme’s progenitors.

“I used to go to the reserve at that time. The wardens there were very experiences and I learned a lot, eventually becoming the head warden. There were lots of iguanas in the 80’s and 90’s and quite a few hatchlings. I fed them everyday and learned from the animals,” he noted.

Mr. Esteban added that he does not miss working in the bars and much prefers working in the forest with the lizards he has come to love so much.

In fact, he is credited with spending weeks at a time in the forests of Grand Cayman during the beginning of the porgramme, during which time he logged the animals’ feeding and behavioral habits, which has been instrumental in their recovery from only 20 animals in the beginning of the recovery efforts, to over one thousand having been released into the wild since the inception of the project.

“They love regular plants, especially from the western Caribbean and they love fruits such as bananas, mango and papaya. We often feed them fruit platters and some like eating pecans,” he remarked.

Mr. Esteban credits decades of working with the Blue Iguanas for keeping him ‘young’ and at 75-years-old there’s still quite a lot of fuel left in his tank.

He can often be seen clasping his hands together and rubbing them before chanting, “My babies” upon seeing one of the iguanas and still takes between 300 and 400 persons on the walking tour of the their facility at the National Trust’s Blue Iguana Recovery Programme facility in North Side each month.

Working 6 days each week, Mr. Esteban explained a regular day on his shift:

“I get there very early to sure they are ok and that they have water. Right diet is very important. Our priority is their diet and we try to give them the best plants to eat.”

One of the park’s more popular Blue Iguanas is Peter, who loves to pose for pictures with visitors and stole the show in the Prince Charles visited Grand Cayman recently. The lizards are usually very territorial and can be quite aggressive but Peter has taken a liking to his human suitors and is one of the few lizards that actually enjoys being hand-fed and showered with attention.

Alberto loves to show him off to visitors and even puts the creature on his back sometimes while giving his presentation to visitors and guests.

The Blue Iguana is only found in Grand Cayman. Due to the Island’s land mass being so remote in relation to any other Caribbean Island, their gene pool is extremely distinct.

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