Brachylophus vitiensis

Fijian Crested Iguana


IUCN Status: Critically Endangered
Range: Fiji Islands
Population: ~13,000
Size: Maximum up to 9.5″ in length from snout to vent and 31.5″ including the tail; weight up to 14 oz
Threats: Habitat loss of native forest trees; Predation by introduced domestic cats, mongoose, and rats.

Species Information

  • The Fiji Crested Iguana is a strikingly beautiful, medium-sized iguana that was first described in 1980. It is known for its vibrant green coloration with white bands and the spiky crest that runs along its neck, back, and tail.
  • It has the ability to rapidly change color from green to almost black when excited or threatened. It may also open its mouth and lunge at a potential threat.
  • The species is arboreal, living almost exclusively in the trees and using overlapping branches in the canopy to travel. Its long toes and tail help it balance while they moving among the branches.
  • Fiji Crested Iguanas are predominantly herbivores, feeding on the leaves, fruits, shoots, and flowers from trees and shrubs. They rely on a few key native species, including Vesi Wai (Pongamia pinnata), Cevua (Vavaea amicorum), Vau tree (Hibiscus tiliaceus), and False Sandalwood (Vavaea amicorum).
  • Breeding generally takes place during the rainy season, between the months of February and April. Females dig a nest on the forest floor, usually in a shaded area, and lay a clutch of two to six leathery eggs. The eggs can take more than six months to hatch, one of the longest incubation periods among iguanas.
  • The species is listed by IUCN as Critically Endangered, with an estimated population of only about 13,000, with 12,000 of those occurring on the small island of Yadua Taba. The remaining individuals are scattered among 14 other islands.
  • Monuriki has the second largest population of these iguanas, but after decades of intensive goat grazing and forest fires, many trees the iguanas rely on for food became locally extinct on this island. Goats were removed in 2011, but iguana numbers remained low. However, a conservation breeding and release program is bringing them back, and they are now reproducing in protected areas on their own.
  • Habitat loss remains the biggest threat, since they depend on a small number of native forest trees for food. Feral domestic cats and introduced mongoose and rats are a predation threat.
  • A Species Action Plan for all Fijian iguanas is underway, focusing on habitat protection and restoration, invasive predator control, improved forestry and agricultural practices, and education and outreach to local communities.
  • Successful recovery efforts on the island of Yadua Taba have made this species a local celebrity, and it has become a symbol for Fiji biodiversity conservation.

IIF Grants Received

2023 Grant $5,290

Reintroducing Iguana Food Plant Species to Monuriki Island, Fiji.

Peter Harlow


2021 Grant $5,000

Reintroducing Iguana Food-Plant Species to Monuriki Island, Fiji.

Peter Harlow


2018 Grant $4,958
Eradicating Cats on Monu and Macuata Islands, Fiji

Peter Harlow
2017 Grant $7,925
Completion of the IUCN Fijian Iguana (Brachylophus sp.) Recovery/Strategic Plan 2018–2023

Kim Lovich
2016 Grant $10,500
Fijian Iguana Conservation through Long-term Survivorship Monitoring of Captive Head-started and then Released Crested Iguanas (Brachylophus) to Monuriki Island

Kim Lovich
2015 Grant $10,200
Fijian Iguana Conservation through Development of a New Ranger Program for Macuata Island

Kim Lovich
2013 Grant $10,000
Population Assessments and Conservation Genetics Analyses of Fijian Iguana (Brachylophus sp.)

Robert Fisher
2012 Grant $8,000
Population Assessments and Conservation Genetics Analyses of Fijian Iguana (Brachylophus sp.)

Robert Fisher
2011 Grant $6,280
Urgent Conservation Action for the Yaqaga Island Iguana (Brachylophus vitiensis), in Fiji

Dick Watling

In 2009 the villagers of Yaqaga Island reported the presence of the first iguana specimen on their island in living memory. This unique crested iguana may represent a distinct species and the funding provided by IIF will allow biologists to fully implement a conservation program for this unique island species by mapping out suitable habitat, assessing existing populations, implementing a cat trapping and eradication program, and developing a set of training and education materials so the local community can become fully engaged in the program.

2010 Grant $12,000
Population Assessments and Conservation Genetics Analyses of Fijian Iguana (Brachylophus sp.)

Robert Fisher

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.

2009 Grant $6,000
Banded Iguana (Brachylophus sp.) Species Assessment of the North Eastern Fijian Islands

Robert Fisher

Recent genetic and morphological research on Fijian Iguanas (genus Brachylophus) has shown that there are three living species in the genus and indicated that there may be more undescribed diversity in the genus. This research also identified that the northern large islands have never been assessed for iguanas and although it’s known that there are iguanas on these islands none were included in the genetics or morphological analysis. This work will help to more completely describe the diversity of living species in the genus Brachylophus, and is necessary to begin conservation planning for the Banded Iguanas. To date most conservation actions have been focused on the Crested Iguanas.

2007 Grant $13,500
Last Chance to Maintain Genetic Diversity in the Fijian Crested Iguanas (Brachylophus vitiensis)

Peter Harlow

$4,500 will be used for negotiations with tribal land owners, and $9,000 to follow, pending granting of permission to move iguanas.

2006 Grant $5,000
Conservation Biology of the Critically Endangered Fijian Crested Iguana, Brachylophus vitiensis

Suzanne Morrison, Peter Harlow, and Scott Keogh

This project is a natural history study, but one with long-term conservation implications for this iconic animal and for Fiji. Basic information on breeding biology, habitat use, habitat assembly and resilience, diet, and recruitment of young will be used to inform a sound conservation program for this lizard with the ultimate goal of establishing additional viable populations through translocations and reintroductions. In addition, information will be collected on two species that pose potential threats to the iguanas and the ecosystem, Pacific Rats and Crazy Ants.

2005 Grant $3,000
Conservation of the Critically Endangered Fijian Crested Iguana

J. Scott Keogh, Peter Harlow, and Suzanne Morrison

This IIF grant provides support to the ongoing natural history study of the Fijian Crested Iguana on Yadua Taba that will help answer questions regarding the ecological role they play in the their native forests. Habitat use, reproductive ecology, and juvenile recruitment will be studied.