Conservation / Project Palearis
Eighteen species of Spiny-tailed Iguanas (Ctenosaura spp.) have been described — but the conservation status of most is unknown, largely attributable to a lack of research. The IRCF recently helped produce an illustrated guide to ctenosaurs for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help inspection officials identify animals and assist with the enforcement of national conservation laws.
One endangered ctenosaur species that has been the subject of intense research efforts inhabits the same few remaining patches of dry forest in Guatemala’s Rio Motagua Valley as the Guatemalan Beaded Lizard. On behalf of the Guatemalan Spiny-tailed Iguana (Ctenosaura palearis), Project Palearis was initiated by Zootropic, at the suggestion of the IRCF and Zoo Atlanta, to operate in tandem with Project Heloderma and take advantage of the same research and education programs and protected areas. Aside from threats to the habitat that C. palearis shares with the Beaded Lizard, the species is vulnerable to intense hunting pressures. While these iguanas have long been subjected to small-scale harvesting for food by local residents, initial research revealed that large numbers (as many as 200 individuals at a time) were being caught and sold to foreigners for the illegal pet trade. Armed with this information, as well as data on the small numbers and limited distribution of the species, representatives from Zootropic and the IUCN Iguana Specialist Group, of which the IRCF is a member, submitted a successful application to have C. palearis and the three other members of its clade (C. melanosterna, C. bakeri, and C. oedirhina) listed under CITES Appendix II.