The Utila Spiny-tailed Iguana (Ctenosaura bakeri) is a Critically Endangered species endemic to the small Honduran island of Utila. The total population size of this iguana is estimated at only 5,000 individuals and is dwindling. The species is heavily reliant on mangrove ecosystems, and they spend the majority of their lives in the swampy forest—giving them the island nickname of the “Swamper.”
This unique species is under threat from three main factors: invasive species, habitat destruction, and illegal poaching. The Swampers exist solely in just 2.5 square miles of mangrove forest. There is only one protected area on Utila, encompassing a total of 3.8 square miles, and it contains 24% of the Swampers total habitat.
The International Iguana Foundation has supported on-the-ground conservation efforts of this species for several years, with a focus on preserving the Turtle Harbour Wildlife Refuge protected area for the Swamper. This includes funds to purchase a boat for the NGOs to access the protected area easily; supporting reforestation of the mangrove forest; releasing of headstarted iguanas; population surveys; and control of illegal poaching and invasive species within the protected area.
- Ctenosaura bakeri (Utila Spiny-tailed Iguana), or “Swamper” as it is known locally, is endemic to the island of Utila, which is located in the Bay Island archipelago off the Caribbean coast of Honduras.
- These iguanas primarily live in the mangrove swamps, although they are also found in coastal vegetated areas and use beaches for nesting.
- The population is under threat from habitat loss and fragmentation, illegal hunting of adults and eggs, and predation by invasive species such as raccoons. Habitat destruction has been shown to contribute to declining body condition of iguanas in the population.
- The species is protected under Honduran national law; however, enforcement is rare and poaching is a regular occurrence even within the Turtle Harbour Wildlife Refuge area.
- Conservation measures include environmental education, community outreach, and creation of community livelihoods to replace poaching. Future goals include purchasing an area of mangrove forest to create a private nature reserve to protect the species and its habitat.
IIF Grants Received
“Save the Swamper” Conservation outreach and population monitoring of Útila Spiny-tailed iguanas
“Save the Swamper”, Conservation Outreach and Population Monitoring of Útila Spiny-tailed Iguanas (Ctenosaura bakeri), Honduras
Conservation Approaches, Population Monitoring and Nesting Ecology of the Critically Endangered Útila Spiny-tailed Iguana Ctenosaura bakeri on the Island of Útila, Honduras
Population, Hybridization, and Nesting Ecology of the Critically Endangered Útila Spiny-tailed Iguana, Ctenosaura bakeri, on the Island of Útila, Honduras
A Study of the Reproductive and Dispersal Behavior of the Critically Endangered Útila Spiny-tailed Iguana, Ctenosaura bakeri, on the Island of Útila, Honduras
Daisy Maryon and David Lee