Roehampton Zoologists to provide new home for endangered iguana species

Roehampton Zoologists are playing a key role in a project to reintroduce the endangered Lesser Antillean Iguana to an island in the Caribbean – and they will monitor the animals’ future progress using miniature radio transmitters.

Posted: 24 November 2015

image for news story Roehampton Zoologists to provide new home for endangered iguana species
Zoologists from Roehampton are creating a new habitat for the Lesser Antillean Iguana to help safeguard the species.

Dr Louise Soanes from the Department of Life Sciences has been working closely with the Anguilla National Trust to identify a suitable location for a new colony of iguanas; the island of Prickly Pear East, located in the UK Overseas Territory of Anguilla, has now been selected. The iguana, Iguana delicatissima, has endangered status and is found on only six Caribbean islands. In the last 20 years it has disappeared from other islands in the area including St Martin, St Kitts, Antigua and Barbuda.

This project will see 13 iguanas re-introduced from enclosures on the mainland on to uninhabited Prickly Pear East, in a bid to give the species the best chance to survive. At the same time the project will raise awareness about Anguilla’s native iguana population and the importance of protecting endangered species and their habitats.

The iguanas will be monitored for one year, being checked for health and survivorship using radio transmitters. The iguana has been suffering from a loss of habitat and inter-breeding with the invasive Green Iguana.

Dr Soanes said: “The Lesser Antillean Iguana is a decreasing and severely fragmented species, so to play such a key role in helping it avoid extinction is a major contribution to the natural world which I am glad to make.

"Through studying the iguanas’ lifestyle, feeding patterns and habitat for the last year, and researching the environments of a number of possible homes for a new colony, we believe Prickly Pear East will give these animals the best chance of survival and growth.

"The radio transmitters will allow us not only to locate an iguana on the island so that we can visually check on its progress, but will also provide us with data on how active they are in their new habitat, which allows us to closely study the potential for this colony to grow.” 

The project is being managed by the Anguilla National Trust, with funding from the International Iguana Foundation, Rufford Small Grants for Nature and the Mohammed Bin Zayad Conservation Fund, and additional support and guidance provided by from Flora and Fauna International and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

The Department of Life Sciences undertakes world-leading research to help endangered species of all kinds. Find out more about our Zoology course.

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