2014 Yaqaga Island Update
Report submitted by Peter Harlow, Taronga Conservation Society, Australia
In December 2009, the first record of a Crested Iguana in living memory came from the island of Yaqaga in north-western Fiji, which is 36 km north-east of Yadua Taba Island. A half-eaten dead iguana had been found on the beach and had probably been killed by a cat. Extensive field surveys in January 2010 and February 2011 located just three female iguanas in an isolated pocket of forest in the center of the island. These specimens are entirely green, with no banding as in all other populations of Crested Iguanas. The iguana’s extreme rarity was assumed to be due to the large number of feral cats on the island.
In 2011, the Fijian Conservation NGO, NatureFiji-MareqetiViti received funding from the International Iguana Foundation and a Taronga Foundation Field Conservation Grant for habitat surveys, village awareness education, and feral cat trapping on Yaqaga. In 2011–2012, 16 feral cats were trapped and removed from this 9.7 km2 inhabited island, and in June 2014 an international survey team returned and located a single male iguana (with bands) on Yaqaga.
The complete eradication of all cats from this island is the most urgent conservation action required in Fiji if we are to save the unique Yaqaga Island population of Crested Iguana from total extirpation.