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Rhinoceros Iguana


Scientific Name: Cyclura cornuta

IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable

Description: A large species with adult males reaching a body length of 1.8 feet (without tail length).  Adults are grayish brown, dark brown, dark gray or even black overall, without pattern or bright colors. Juveniles are similar in appearance to adults, but with approximately nine paler crossbars which disappear relatively soon after hatching. In the Dominican Republic, the only West Indian country where two distinct species of rock iguanas are found, the Rhinoceros Iguana and Ricord's Iguana can be easily differentiated.  Rhinoceros Iguanas are easily recognized by the horn-like upturned conical scales atop the snout giving rise to their common name.  Adults also typically have two prominent fat pads crowning the head and huge sagging jaw muscles that give them their characteristic appearance. In contrast to the diagonally barred back and sides of Ricord's Iguana, Rhinoceros Iguanas are uniformly dark on their back and sides. 

Distribution: Widely distributed throughout Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti). 

Habitat: Tropical dry forest and broadleaf forest.

Notes: The Rhinoceros Iguana is one of two species of rock iguanas on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.  This species is believed to still be widely distributed throughout Hispaniola, though their range is fragmented and decreasing (relative to pre-human times) and associated with dry regions of low human population density.  Their status in Haiti, where they are heavily hunted and from which large numbers were exported for the pet trade prior to their protection in the early 1980s, is unknown.  Rhinoceros Iguanas are now commonly bred in captivity by both zoos and private hobbyists, and are seen widely in the pet trade.  Compared to the sympatric Ricord's Iguana, this species is an ecological generalist and hence more adaptable. Threats include loss of tropical dry forest habitat due to extraction of hardwoods for fuel and charcoal production, predation by feral dogs, cats, mongoose and pigs, and illegal hunting for food. 

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