Sunday, April 24, 2011

Conservationists Save Rare Blue Iguana

Photo courtesy: Furryscaly / cc via TreeHugger

Ten short years ago, Grand Cayman blue iguanas were on the brink of extinction. Human factors, like habitat encroachment and vehicle strikes, had reduced their number to less than two dozen -- but now, thanks, to the tireless efforts of conservation officials, the rare species is making a real comeback. Over the last decade, officials have bred and released more than 500 iguanas back into the wild, promising with it the hope that humanity's tendency towards destruction may be outweighed by our capacity for preservation.

The promising future for Grand Cayman blue iguanas is the result of many years of dedication on the part of animal experts from the Bronx Zoo's Wildlife Conservation Society, along with the Blue Iguana Recovery Program. Since 2002, when there were believed to be only around 20 of the animals left on Earth, officials have bred hundreds of iguanas in captivity which were then released back into their native island habitat.

According to a press release from the Wildlife Conservation Society:
"For the past several years, we've succeeded in adding hundreds of animals to the wild population, all of which receive a health screening before release," said Dr. Paul Calle, Director of Zoological Health for WCS's Bronx Zoo.

Fred Burton, Director of the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, said: "We expect to reach our goal of 1,000 iguanas in managed protected areas in the wild in a few years. After that, we will monitor the iguanas to make sure they are reproducing in the numbers needed to maintain the wild population. If we get positive results, we will have succeeded."
With hundreds of species on the endangered species list, and more than a few of those considered to be at 'critical' population levels, the proven success of recent preservation efforts aimed towards returning Grand Cayman blue iguanas from the brink of extinction has broader implications beyond this one species alone. Many more plants and animals dwindling throughout the world could experience similar benefits from concerted breed-and-release programs, and fortunately many already are.

It could be said that in many cases, the biggest impediment to the long term survival of every organism on Earth is a lack of awareness about the importance of its preservation -- but it comes as welcome news that, despite past misgivings, recovery is possible even when so few individuals remain. The lesson then is a timeless one, though perhaps never so appropriately applied: where there's life, there's hope.

No comments: