Conservation / Blue Iguana Recovery Program
One of the most successful projects supported by the IRCF has been on behalf of one of the most endangered West Indian Rock Iguanas, the Grand Cayman Blue Iguana, Cyclura lewisi, Red-listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN. Triggered by a 2002 survey that revealed a mere 20–25 individuals remaining in the wild, the IRCF and the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust helped establish the Blue Iguana Recovery Program (BIRP), a key component of which has been the captive breeding and head-starting of Blue Iguanas for release to protected areas in the wild.
BIRP has faced innumerable challenges and setbacks and had many lessons to learn before achieving a degree of success. The IRCF has been there every step along the way, helping with fundraising, web hosting and design, education and awareness campaigns, and many hands-on contributions. Since 2005, when the first “Team Blue” was recruited and sent to Grand Cayman with hammer and nails to assist in an upgrade of the captive-breeding facility, the IRCF has been organizing volunteers from its membership to assist with everything from facility work to release and radio-tracking of individuals in the wild. Today, after years of hard work, close to 500 captive-raised individuals have been released into the 235-ha Salina Reserve and a newly established second protected area, the 77-ha Collier’s Wilderness. A species once functionally extinct in the wild now has a realistic chance of surviving, yet many challenges lay ahead before the program’s mission of restoring a stable population of 1,000 Blue Iguanas to the wild can be deemed a complete success.