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Utila Spiny-tailed Iguana

A Change of Heart

By Jimmy Andino, Fundación Islas de la Bahía, Honduras

Education is such an important part of conservation. When people develop an understanding and appreciation of the wildlife around them, the results are powerful. This account from 2022 IIF grant recipient Jimmy Andino warmed our hearts and put smiles on our faces. This is why we do what we do at the International Iguana Foundation—and what our supporters make possible!

A Utila Spiny-tailed Iguana looks out over the water

On the island of Utila in Honduras, the Fundación Islas de la Bahía (FIB) conducts conservation research to study and protect the endangered Utila Spiny-tailed Iguana (Ctenosaura bakeri), including in 2022 with a grant from the International Iguana Foundation. In our work, we meet and spend time with the local communities, which are at the forefront of conservation efforts because they live with the iguanas and other wildlife. Our conservation program includes education and outreach about the iguanas, which have traditionally been hunted as food.

Utila Spiny-tailed Iguana in the mangrove forest

One resident we met was Juan Carlos Turcios, a 27-year-old father of four. For many years, he had hunted and sold the iguanas as his livelihood. But in 2022, he became aware that these iguanas are an endangered species. From the FIB program, Juan Carlos learned about the breeding and conservation work taking place on the island to save them. After talking with us over time, he decided to change his behavior and no longer capture iguanas. Instead, he looked for an alternative way to make a living for his family, and he determined he would become a local tourist guide in Utila.

With our enthusiastic support, Juan Carlos completed several months of training and proudly achieved official certification as a local guide. In designing his expeditions, he focused on introducing tourists to the beauty of the mangrove habitat and the iguanas that live there, as well as the important biodiversity found on Utila. He included environmental interpretation materials in his tours, and he increased his market by attracting tourists to explore the often-overlooked mangrove habitat.

Juan Carlos currently promotes his expeditions to the mangroves as an opportunity to meet iguanas in the wild, highlighting their environmental importance as a unique species and their role in the delicate mangrove ecosystem. He says that from that day when he became aware of how significant the Utila Spiny-tailed Iguanas are, he has seen changes that he never imagined, in his own life and in the understanding of the people he guides on his tours. It’s an inspiring change of heart.

Utila Spiny-tailed Iguana

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