Ctenosaura palearis

Spiny-tailed Iguana


IUCN Status: Endangered
Range: Southeastern Guatemala
Population: Unknown, estimated less than 2,500
Size: Average length 8.1 inches in males and slightly smaller for females from snout to vent, 16–17 inches total, average weight ~6.5 ounces
Threats: Over-harvesting for bushmeat; habitat loss by conversion of forest to crops; illegal trade
  • The Motagua Spiny-tailed Iguana is endemic to Guatemala and is restricted to the last remnants of seasonally dry tropical forest in the Motagua Valley in eastern Guatemala with an estimated population size of ~2,500 adult individuals.
  • This iguana is particularly associated with the Pitayo Organ Pipe Cactus (Stenocereus pruinosus) and plays a key role in its dispersal, as seeds eaten by the iguana show a significant increase in germination success.
  • The main threat for Motagua Spiny-tailed Iguanas is over-harvesting by local villagers for bushmeat. Habitat loss is also a problem for the iguana, primarily due to the increased production of melon crops and the construction of new residential zones within the Motagua Valley.
  • In situ conservation strategies are taking place in the Motagua Valley. Part of the population is protected within the Heloderma Natural Reserve (HNR), managed by the Guatemalan non-profit organization Zootropic. Management of this species also includes a conservation breeding program within the reserve and education program reaching more than 1,500 children.
  • Ten more national parks have suitable habitat for the species and offer legal protection from habitat destruction and poaching, however enforcement is lacking and should be strengthened to conserve the species.