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New Endangered Cayman Rock Iguana Exhibit opens at Cayman Turtle Centre

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New Endangered Cayman Rock Iguana Exhibit opens at Cayman Turtle Centre
01Apr 2014

A new terrestrial exhibit at the Cayman Turtle Centre: Island Wildlife Encounter featuring the Sister Islands Rock Iguana, Cyclura nubila caymanensis (otherwise known as the Cayman Rock Iguana/Sister Islands Iguana) opened in March.

This species of iguana - a cousin to the better known Blue Iguana - is endemic to Cayman Brac & Little Cayman. It is an endangered species that is highly threatened on Cayman Brac, but more abundant on Little Cayman. However, both populations are considered vulnerable and are both continuously threatened by development, road kills, and free-roaming cats and dogs. The species is both internationally and locally protected.

On loan to the Cayman Turtle Centre from the Cayman Islands Government Department of Environment (DoE), this female Cayman Rock Iguana is currently housed in the iguana enclosure located just outside of the park’s Caribbean Free-flight Aviary.

The iguana was found in Grand Cayman in April 2013 and was transferred to the care of the Cayman Turtle Centre in late May 2013 due to concerns over its apparently failing health, and the lack of appropriate resources at the DoE to rehabilitate the animal over an extended time period.

While housed at the Cayman Turtle Centre, the iguana has been rehabilitated and nursed back to prime health. She also underwent DNA analysis to confirm her identity and island origin, which was part of a DNA analysis study carried out by a student at the Mississippi State University under the supervision of Dr. Mark Welch , a specialist in Cyclura species genetics.

Although the student’s results indicated that the iguana is a Sister Islands Rock Iguana, a larger DNA analysis of the Sister Islands Rock Iguana is currently underway to see if each island has their own unique population. The DoE recommended in accordance with best practices that the iguana remains with the Cayman Turtle Centre pending the imminent results of the larger genetic analysis and then a final health screening, prior to release.

In the meanwhile, this particular iguana offers an educational opportunity by remaining on display at the Cayman Turtle Centre for the benefit of visitors and guests. Over 2000 local schoolchildren visit the Cayman Turtle Centre each year on educational visits as part of their school curriculum.

Cayman Turtle Centre’s Curator of Terrestrial Exhibits and Education Programmes, Mr. Geddes Hislop, is working closely with the DoE to ensure that the iguana is appropriately cared for, and also in the development of an education programme centered on this species.

For more information and admission rates, call the Cayman Turtle Centre: Island Wildlife Encounter on 949-3894, email info@turtle.ky or visit www.turtle.ky