A handful of extremely rare lizards have been bred by scientists. Eleven Lesser Antillean iguanas have hatched at facilities managed by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, based in Jersey. The emergence of the hatchlings is significant, as the Lesser Antillean iguana is now considered to be critically endangered in the wild.
Found only on a few islands in the Caribbean, the lizard is threatened by habitat loss and illegal hunting. Invasive predators, including feral and pet cats and dogs, have also killed many.
But perhaps the greatest threat is now posed by a relative of the Lesser Antillean iguana. The far more common green iguana is now spreading into the range of its rarer relative, and cross-breeding with it, threatening its future survival.
The new hatchlings will help efforts to breed and conserve the Lesser Antillean iguana, and Durrell is the only place that has successfully managed to breed this species. Their appearance is also significant as “it’s the first breeding success of a second generation in captivity,” says Matt Goetz, Durrell’s Head of Herpetology.
“This year’s youngsters are the offspring of an adult pair that hatched at Durrell in 2011. This proves to us that we have reared the previous offspring in the best possible conditions.”
As well as supporting efforts to preserve the remaining in the wild, says Matt Goetz, “the youngsters will be sent to zoos around Europe, which we hope will promote and support the urgent conservation work for this species in the Caribbean.”
By Matt Walker
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