That a group of species could slip quietly towards extinction without serious awareness from the conservation community is alarming. But a cluster of four closely related species in Honduras and Guatemala were suddenly realized to be in serious trouble and in need of conservation action. With the well-publicized exception of the Utila Iguana, Ctenosaura bakeri, three species – (C. oedirhina from Roatan, C. melanosterna from Cayos Cochinos and the Rio Aguan Valley of northern mainland Honduras and C. palearis of the Motagua Valley in Guatemala) – had until recently largely managed to escape the attention of most iguana biologists. So, during the 2005 and 2006 Iguana Specialist Group meetings, the threats facing this group were discussed and a Ctenosaura working group was organized. Three of the four species were subsequently assessed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, indicating that a response from the conservation community was long overdue. The fourth species, C. oedirhina is assessed as endangered. Hunting and overharvesting of eggs, combined with loss of habitat primarily from conversion to agriculture (Guatemala) or tourist resorts (Honduras), are the leading threats. To further highlight the conservation concerns of these threatened lizards, the ISG conducted an international management plan workshop in Honduras in November 2007. The IIF is currently supporting projects on Roatan and Guatemalan Spiny-tailed Iguanas. The Roatan Iguana is a poorly understood species prompting the IIF to fund the first-ever study on their basic biology and natural history by iguana biologist Stesha Pasachnik. We hope this study will lead to the development of a management plan and long-term outreach program involving the local island communities. IIF’s support of the Guatemalan Spiny-tailed Iguana includes continued habitat and population monitoring as well as the expansion of an education program focused on sustainable use of both iguanas and their habitat.
There is still much work to be done involving this group of charismatic but neglected iguanas and the IIF needs your support. The more we learn about these fascinating lizards, the more we appreciate their unique role in the fragile ecosystems they inhabit and the intense threats they face. A donation to Project Ctenosaura will fund current and future research on this group and help us to better understand them. The more we understand about their biology, the better prepared we are to aid in their survival.
For more information on the Roatan Spiny-tailed Iguana click here to visit our species page.