September 29, 2015 (Sanford, FL) – The Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens is proud to announce that three Grand Cayman rock iguanas hatched on September 1, 2015. Endemic to the Grand Cayman Island, these iguanas are one of the most critically endangered reptile species in the world. Accredited zoos are working hard to keep this species from becoming extinct. The hatchlings are not currently available for guest viewing, but the parents are on exhibit.
Grand Cayman Island rock iguanas are one of several species at the Zoo that are involved in the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP). The mission of an SSP Program is to oversee the population management of specific species and to enhance conservation of that species in the wild. The Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens successfully hatched four of these lizards in the summer of 2012 as well.
Though normally blue-gray in color, these iguanas turn a vivid shade of turquoise blue during the mating season, leading to the other name of “blue iguana”. Though once abundant, the Grand Cayman rock iguana were reduced from a near island-wide distribution to a non-viable, fragmented remnant. By 2001, no young hatched in the unmanaged wild population were surviving to breeding age. Feral and introduced animals, such as cats, dogs, rats, and pigs, predate on juvenile and adult lizards. Destruction of natural habitat also contributed to their decline.
Fortunately, since 2004, managed breeding programs have helped reintroduce populations of the lizards into a preserve on the Island.