Cayman Islands conservation milestone reached with the blue iguana saved from extinction

United Kingdom 3 August 2018
The National Trust for the Cayman Islands has announced the release of the 1,000th blue iguana into the wild.

The National Trust for the Cayman Islands has announced the release of the 1,000th blue iguana into the wild. The iguana, named Renegade, was let into Colliers Wilderness Reserve – a National Trust protected area in the East End of Grand Cayman - and marked a milestone in the return of Cayman’s endemic species from the brink of extinction.

Renegade, like the other blue iguanas that have been released into the wild, was microchipped and fitted with colourful bead markings for future identification purposes. He was given a head-start in the specialist breeding facility at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park and was one of 10 iguanas released last week with the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme planning 50 more this year.

“This is a very happy day,” said Stuart Mailer, environmental programmes manager for the National Trust for the Cayman Islands. “It’s such a wonderful experience for visitors to be able to come and see the animals roaming around in the wild. It’s one of the major draws for the Botanic Park.”

The blue iguana was considered functionally extinct as recently as 2005 with only 10 remaining in the wild, but the breeding programme at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park has given the species a chance to bounce back. The breeding programme was set up by Cumbrian-born Fred Burton after he realised that these mysterious blue dragons were in danger of extinction. He eventually managed to convince the government that there was a problem and began breeding the iguanas in his office. Since then it has been a success story, but not without its hurdles. Wild dogs and disease have all played a part in hampering the efforts of the breeding programme, but this release marks a significant breakthrough for conservation efforts not only in the Cayman Islands, but worldwide.

The blue iguana population has now gone from critically endangered, to endangered. The Blue Iguana Recovery Programme will therefore ensure increase its focus on the monitoring of the wild population and continue its research into how to maintain the genetic diversity necessary to keep the species thriving.

More information about the blue iguanas, including the opportunity to sponsor one of these incredible animals, can be found at

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