17 Jamaican Iguanas Released
The headstart program collects hatchlings from the wild and places them in a safe, captive facility at the Hope Zoo until they have reached as size which allows them to defend against predators. Prior to release, all of the iguanas in the headstart facility (202 in total) were evaluated by a team that comes together from around the US and Jamaica. This year, Orlando Robinson, Quarrie, Mr. Gordon, and other Hope Zoo staff were joined by Dr. Nancy Lung and technician Jackie Woods from the Fort Worth Zoo. Dr. Lung has been working on the Jamaican Iguana project for many years. Additionally, Tandora Grant from the San Diego Institute for Conservation Research and Melanie Litton and Melissa Tomingas from the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans also traveled to Jamaica to lend their expertise and support for the release. Prior to release, iguanas are checked over by veterinary staff, weighed, measured, and tagged for future identification.
The Jamaican Iguana Recovery Program works diligently to ensure the survival of this species through multiple conservation efforts. In the Hellshire Hills, the Jamaican Iguana is monitored year round and trapping efforts along the perimeter of the primary iguana population help to reduce predation by feral animals, particularly mongoose and cats. The Jamaican Iguana recovery team is led by Dr. Byron Wilson from the University of West Indies (UWI), Kingston, with support from field coordinator Rick VanVeen and field assistants Leego, Boomz, Killa, Lil Kim, and other UWI students. The efforts of the field staff in monitoring the iguana population and protecting the core area throughout the year allows for the headstart program to have a safer natural habitat for released iguanas to return to as well as providing a protected area for nesting of both headstart and wild iguanas. The presence of iguana researchers in the Hellshire Hills also protects the habitat by deterring charcoal production which can destroy native vegetation which iguanas rely on. The annual release of headstart iguanas brings us closer every year to a brighter future for the Jamaican Iguana.