2009 Project Update

The following report was provided by Kelly Bradley (Fort Worth Zoo), lead field biologist in charge of coordinating recovery efforts on behalf of the International Iguana Foundation and the IUCN Iguana Specialist Group.

In 2009 the focus of the Anegada Iguana project was to increase our knowledge of the wild population and continue to support the headstart program. We completed three trips centered on the reproductive season. May is the height of the breeding season, and the time when adults are the most active. We continued the mark and recapture program initiated in 2007 by capturing as many wild animals as possible. Though our field time was limited by poor weather conditions and travel delays we were able to catch several new wild adults, a previously marked adult, and numerous released headstarted iguanas. To date over 50 wild adults have been marked.

May is also the time we try to increase our knowledge about the iguanas’ distribution and habitat by conducting field surveys of new portions of the island. This past year, we finally located wild iguanas on the east end of the island. Locals have long reported the presence of iguanas in this area. But until now, we did not know exactly where the animals were located. We hope to complete extensive distance sampling in this area next year to get a more accurate estimate of population density and distribution in this previously unstudied area.

Males actively search for and fight over females during the breeding season. These conflicts can be somewhat violent but typically result in superficial wounds on the side of the body and face. We witnessed two headstarted males involved in this year’s combat. This event signifies another success of the program since these males are behaving normally and attempting to integrate into the breeding population.

Cyclura pinguisThe headstart facility had a unique opportunity to reach almost 900 students from across the whole British Virgin Islands (BVI). The Governor of the BVI treated the top two children from each classroom to a day tour on Anegada. All the students received a brief lecture about the island’s iguana and the measures being taken to conserve it.

During the July nest surveys we documented a nest on Middle Cay, representing the first nest found at this location. Unfortunately, the nest had been excavated and the broken eggs were on the surface. This nest was from a headstarted female. Even though the nest was unsuccessful, this is the first documented nesting attempt by a headstarted female. As a result of the annual nest survey, 22 new hatchlings were transferred to the headstart facility this October.