- Status: Critically Endangered and Endangered under IUCN Red List criteria
- Major threats: Habitat loss, lack of information, introduction of invasive green iguanas.
- In 2011preliminary investigation of Yaqaga Island included seven nights of iguana surveys. During this time two males were captured and released after DNA samples and measurements were taken. Cat traps were set capturing 11 felines and 1 small canine. Other species noted included wild goats and native rats.
- In 2010 field research funded by IIF led to the identification of a new species of Fijian iguana and identified populations that need further research to determine species.
- IIF funded research in 2005 provided important natural history information on the Fiji crested iguanas. 265 iguanas were tagged during this study and will provide a sample population for future studies on this species.
- What still needs to be done:
- Baseline studies and research on the Brachylophus genus must be completed to determine species, population sizes, and natural history data vital to the conservation of Fijian iguanas.
- Identification of healthy populations where quality habitat exists must be determined so that appropriate land protection can occur to ensure the survival of various species.
- Management plans with appropriate conservation priorities must be developed to ensure long-term survival.
Fijian iguanas (genus Brachylophus) has 3 known living species – 2 species of banded iguanas (B. bulabula and B. fasciatus) and one species of crested iguana (B. vitiensis). This genus is found in the south-west Pacific and is the only known genus of iguana that exists outside of the Americas. However, with over 300 islands in this region, there is still a lot of research that must be completed on the genus. In 2004, the a workshop was held by the National Trust of Fiji Islands and the iguana specialist group which brought together researchers and stakeholders to develop a species recovery plan for critically endangered Fiji crested iguana, Brachylophus vitiensis. In 2005 the IIF awarded a grant to Peter Harlow and Suzanne Morrison to study the conservation biology of the Fiji crested iguana. The grant provided important support to the ongoing natural history study that helped answer questions regarding the ecological role this iguana play in their native forests. During this study, an initial 265 iguanas were tagged to provide a base population for future studies. This study collected basic biological information on one species in the Brachylophus genus; however data on other species and populations on other islands remained insufficient. With marked declines continuing, and the critical status of these iguanas increasing, additional studies were needed to continue analysis of this and other species. Due to the large geographic range, many areas had not been adequately sampled. With loss of habitat on the rise and new threats, such as the introduction of the invasive green iguana, the importance of immediate conservation action continued to grow. In 2009 the IIF approved a grant to fund studies that would fill in the gaps of knowledge in natural history of Fijian iguanas. During this study 15 priority islands were surveyed and, among the most notable results, a new species of crested iguana was discovered. Additionally, this research identified potential populations and areas to be recommended for national park status due to more robust populations of native iguanas as well as areas that required additional monitoring due to the introduction of invasive green iguanas.
The International Iguana Foundation has approved another grant for Fijian iguana conservation to take place in 2011. This project will build on previous work done in 2009-2010 by doing more extensive surveys and genetic testing. More intensive surveys will provide population estimates for both the new species of crested iguana and the previously known species of banded iguana to determine conservation priorities for this genus. A microsatellite library to document and further examine the genetics of the entire genus will also be developed to assist in future conservation and management of wild and captive populations. The IIF recognizes the importance of continuing research to save this imperiled species and it is our hope that funding of this project will result in a comprehensive management and recovery plan for the Brachylophus genus.
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For more information on Fiji Crested, Fiji Banded, or Lau Banded iguanas, please go to our species pages.
The IIF would like to thank the Fiji National Trust, United States Geological Survey, San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, Taronga Zoo, Australian National University, Nature Fiji, and Conservation International – Fiji for support.