Teaming Up to Save the Fiji Iguana

Teaming Up to Save the Fiji Iguana

Fijian iguanas have been creating a dwelling at the San Diego Zoo for much more than 50 yrs. The prince of Tonga gave the zoo six Fiji banded iguanas in 1965, and the to start with hatchling was born in 1981.

The establishment has the biggest colony of this endangered species outside the house of Fiji. And the zoo manages the Species Survival Method (SSP) for the species. That’s a system developed by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) to assist make certain the survival of threatened or endangered species in captivity through breeding, reintroduction applications, area conservation, and schooling.

About a decade ago, scientists at the zoo began investigating the genetic profiles of their animals. They noticed that quite a few of them did not rather glimpse the very same as the other people.

“We discovered some of our animals appeared to be a little bit distinct from each individual other and had features of Fijian crested iguanas,” Kim Gray, curator of herpetology at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, clarifies to Treehugger.

They wished to see if their appealing animals could grow to be an “assurance inhabitants,” which are colonies of critically endangered and threatened animals that are preserved in captivity so that species really don’t go extinct.

“But acknowledging you don’t want to start an assurance colony with hybrids, we started out by searching at the genetics of the animals we experienced and evaluating that with animals at the Taronga Zoo [in Australia] and in museums,” Gray suggests.

“From in this article we needed to start off searching at superior being familiar with the proof that our genetics showed.”

Iguana Collaborations


Kim Gray with an iguana in Fiji.

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance


Employing DNA sequencing, zoo scientists identified that there was a great deal far more range in the unanticipated hybrid animals.

“We assumed we’d see species A and species B and possibly a hybrid, but what we noticed was that there was a ton more likely on,” Grey states. “Just like where ever you will find an person island, you see these birds, they appear very equivalent, but on each individual island, it can be a special species.”

That’s what they were being obtaining with iguanas. So in 2013, they began seriously investing time and resources. Gray and a team of authorities went to Fiji to discover additional although also sharing the knowledge they now had.

“We clearly have kept them below for a long time. And so we have all this knowledge on how numerous eggs they lay, how to consider care of the infants, what they consume, how to just take treatment of them with specialised lights, how much humidity they will need. They do not know that in Fiji and if we’re setting up a program like an assurance colony in Fiji, we surely have some skills we could give them.”

The zoo researchers preferred to master extra about the habitats and the populations of the iguanas, as properly as the threats the iguanas confronted. They knew they were being threatened by mongooses and cats, but there are also hazards from local weather transform, deforestation, and habitat reduction.

“We really don’t know something in the wild,” Grey states. “All we know is how to consider care of them in this article and what they like.”

Around the previous several a long time, zoo researchers and their companions have executed industry surveys and gathered samples from about 200 iguanas on 30 islands.

Iguanas are discovered on about 10{2b63ca780747fd71e5e7e1abc600b24462415ced4ae6b883c2cb36d8675d08de} of Fiji’s 300 islands. There were being a few identified iguana species there: the Lau banded iguana (Brachylophus fasciatus), the Fiji crested iguana (Brachylophus vitiensis), and the Fiji banded iguana (Brachylophus bulabula).

The Global Union for Conservation of Character (IUCN) classifies the Fiji banded and Lau banded iguanas as endangered and the Fiji crested iguana as critically endangered.

But the workforce located far more than these regarded animals. Instead, they found there had been person species on just about every island. They’ve described four so far, and Grey claims there may well be up to seven additional.

Looking at Iguanas Thrive


Fijian crested iguana (Malolo Island).

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance


Gray states scientists are doing the job with rangers and communities to raise awareness of the iguanas and support their conservation.

“They’re viewed a little bit like our bald eagle,” Grey states. “They normally don’t take in them, they’re revered a bit, some regional villages have them as a totem form of animal. And it’s on the 5 dollar monthly bill. They ordinarily are fascinated and really supportive of what we are undertaking.”

A person fascinating collaboration was with Ahura Resorts on Malolo Levu island in Fiji. Resort workers experienced found hurt and baby Fijian crested iguanas that were being considered to be extinct on the island.

The iguanas thrived probably owing to a system to reduce the numbers of non-indigenous feral cats, canines, and rats that were being preying on indigenous animals.

“Inadvertently they made this sort of mini reserve for the very last remnants of these iguanas,” Gray states.

Scientists worked with the vacation resort to generate a plan to guidance the species and observe the population. The vacation resort has planted thousands of native trees to assistance with deforestation and to build a habitat to assist the growing population.

Profitable Seeking


Grey (left) searches for iguanas in Fiji.

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance


Gray describes with enjoyment her journeys to Fiji and the worries of looking for iguanas.

“During the daytime when you are in a tropical forest, you are unable to see them at all. You have no idea and they are up 20-30 feet so we have to glimpse at them at evening with headlamps on,” she states.

They commit hrs in the jungle, shining their lights back and forth, hoping they’ll see a tiny bit of white underside from their bodies or eyes in the beam.

Scientists are schooling locals on the spotting and recording techniques so they can continue on to offer information on the animals.

There are now about two dozen banded iguanas at the San Diego Zoo with usually a person male and two girls on show. The iguanas stay about 25 many years, lay about 5 eggs the moment a calendar year, and favor to take in fruit salad around bugs.

“Ours will never ever go again to Fiji since they do have some hybridization,” she suggests. “ And we want to be definitely watchful about when you do reintroductions, that you are not inadvertently mixing genetics or disorder.”