Conservation

Rock Iguana Research and Conservation



West Indian rock iguanas are large plant-eating lizards that inhabit islands throughout the Greater Antilles and the Bahamas. They are one of the most endangered lizard groups in the world — devastated by habitat loss, predation and competition from non-native mammals, and overhunting.

Shedd, in partnership with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Iguana Specialist Group, has been working diligently to help save these lizards from extinction.

Our conservation program involves working with iguanas at Shedd and studying their biology in the wild. Our in-house work focuses on breeding the critically endangered Grand Cayman blue iguana. Biologists estimate that fewer than 30 were left in the wild before a rigorous breeding-and-release program on Grand Cayman increased numbers to more than 200 individuals on the island. This is still an extremely small population for an entire species, so Shedd is one of only a few facilities trying to breed these endangered lizards. Iguanas born here are managed collectively with other zoos in an effort to establish a second, secure population in North America, reducing their risk of extinction. Guests can see these iguanas up close at Shedd — and learn more about their plight and our efforts to help them.

In addition to caring for West Indian rock iguanas at Shedd Aquarium, we are working in the field. For more than 15 years, Shedd has conducted field research on endangered West Indian rock iguana populations in the Bahamas. In the Exumas Islands and on Andros Island, researchers and volunteers survey populations, collect blood samples for genetic studies, investigate the health of each population and erect signs on beaches within iguana habitat to educate tourists. Shedd biologists also host conservation programs and field expeditions for Bahamian schoolchildren to nurture a sense of stewardship for the iguanas and their habitat. We even sponsor a soccer team called the Iguanas to raise community pride in the native lizard.

Every year we include citizen scientists — people just like you — on our research expedition. We will spend our days on land with the iguanas and our nights aboard our research vessel, the R/V Coral Reef II

For more information, contact us at iguanaresearch@sheddaquarium.org.

Iguana blog

Learn along with researchers and volunteers via blogs, photos, videos on the Interactive page.

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