The National Trust recently held its first comprehensive planning exercise to lay the groundwork for its 2020-2025 Species Recovery Plan for the Blue Iguana. The workshop brought together over 20 local and international stakeholders and specialists in the field for the first time in 10 years with the focus of refining the vision for the Blue Iguana programme. During the workshop, the Trust and its stakeholders also discussed updating and developing objectives for habitat management, understanding the breeding and dispersal of the wild populations and meeting ever-increasing threats to Blue Iguana survival from invasive species and disease.
Luke Harding, Operations Manager of the Blue Iguana programme, said: “We’re fortunate to be working in partnership with major international conservationists as well as those on the ground here in Cayman. The workshop was a great opportunity to network, brainstorm, share our experiences and ultimately determine what is best for the livelihood of the Grand Cayman Blue Iguana and what steps will be essential for a successful Phase II.”
Paul Calle, Chief Veterinarian and Director of the Zoological Health Programme at the Wildlife Conservation Society and one of the participants in the workshop, has been actively involved in the programme for over 15 years and regards the experience as the highlight of his career.
Calle’s colleague Kenneth Conley also participated in the workshop. He is the Senior Pathologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society and has been analysing tissue samples of the Blues and communicating with the team for many years, but it was his first visit to the Cayman Islands. “The workshop offered me a much deeper understanding of the programme and the threats facing the species.”
Before the team settled into their intense three-day workshop, they spent a morning visiting the National Trust’s Colliers Wilderness Reserve, Salina Reserve and the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, the Trust’s three chosen Blue Iguana release sites. At the Salina Reserve, attendees hiked to the latest land addition, which was recently purchased by the Royal Society for Protection of Birds in conjunction with the Rainforest Trust and leased to the National Trust, where they were fortunate to see an adult male Blue Iguana in the wild.
While the Trust reached its primary recovery goal last July of releasing 1,000 Blue Iguanas into the wild, the achievement is only one step towards a much larger goal for the endemic iguana’s long-term survival and co-existence with the rapidly growing population and development around the protected conservation areas.
The workshop was funded by Trust using funds from the Darwin Plus Initiative Grant it secured in 2018, with contributions from the Department of Environment (DOE) and Wildlife Conservation Strategy, and brought together international industry experts from the San Diego Zoo, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Institute for Conservation Research, the Fort Worth Zoo and the Conservation Specialist Planning Group; local partners from the DOE, QEII Botanic Park and Island Veterinary were also be present.
In addition to delivering the 2020-2025 Species Recovery Plan, the workshop will update the National Biodiversity Action Plan 2009 for the Blue Iguana.