Save the Jamaican Iguana

The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) is partnering with the International Iguana Foundation (IIF) and other local stakeholders to raise awareness about and help protect the Jamaican Iguana – an important endemic Jamaican species.

The Jamaican Iguana (Cyclura collei) is endemic to Jamaica and can be found only in the Hellshire Hills of St Catherine. This lizard’s diet consists mostly of plants. It can attain a very large body size of up to 150 cm, making it the island’s largest native land animal. The Jamaican Iguana is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. In the 1940s the iguana’s population declined dramatically and the species was believed to be extinct for several decades. Then, In the 1990s a small population was found in the Hellshire Hills. Since its rediscovery, conservation efforts have successfully increased the population of the Jamaican Iguana to over 300 lizards.

For more Jamaican Iguana facts check out the International Iguana Foundation’s page here and a brochure produced by the MTIASIC Project in Jamaica here.

Although considered a global success story for conservation science, there is limited public education on the Jamaican Iguana locally. Many Jamaicans are afraid of lizards and tend to kill them. Other threats include mongoose, wild pigs and stray cats and dogs that attack them, their young and their nests. Destruction of the Hellshire Hills dry limestone forest for charcoal and land clearing threatens their habitat.

In 2017 JET hosted a workshop for students participating in our Schools’ Environment Programme (SEP) under the theme “Jamaican Iguanas: More than just two likkle lizard”. The workshop covered the natural history and importance of the Jamaican Iguana, including an introduction to the Headstart Programme being run by the Hope Zoo and member organizations of the Jamaican Iguana Recovery Group (JIRG). Participants measured and weighed selected iguanas under supervision of the zoo staff.

JET also partnered with the IIF and other local stakeholders to produce a PSA on the Jamaican Iguana which you can watch here.

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