Conservation / Ricord's Iguana
The Caribbean island of Hispaniola comprises two countries, the Dominican Republic (DR) and Haiti; it also is home to two species of Rock Iguanas: the Rhinoceros Iguana (Cyclura cornuta), and Ricord’s Iguana (C. ricordii). The latter is known only from three small and disconnected remnant populations in the DR and a newly discovered population in Haiti. Red-listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN, the once wide-ranging habitat of these large ground dwellers has been largely destroyed by agriculture, limestone mining, and cattle that compete for the limited vegetation and trample iguana nests. The animals are also hunted for food and preyed upon by introduced cats, dogs, and mongooses.
The IRCF is a long-time supporter of the Dominican NGO Grupo Jaragua that is spearheading conservation efforts for Ricord’s and Rhinoceros iguanas, with major funding provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the International Iguana Foundation. The IRCF participated in the IUCN Iguana Specialist Group’s workshop to develop a Species Recovery Plan, which prioritizes conservation actions necessary to ensure the long-term survival of Ricord’s Iguana. The plan is based on research, particularly of the ecological needs of the species, public awareness, captive breeding, and a future management plan for a series of protected areas.
For the newly discovered population of Ricord’s Iguanas in Haiti, education and awareness are key to engaging the goodwill and cooperation of the surrounding community, and a crucial role is played by a local youth group that actually participates in population surveys and radio-tracking. These young people proudly wear T-shirts with a drawing of the endangered Ricord’s Iguana perched atop the outline of their country, a logo that was created by IRCF artist Joel Friesch. Thanks in part to sponsorship by Exo Terra, the IRCF is helping to fund portions of the educational program in Haiti, including compensation for local field staff, equipment, major graphic support for educational material, telecommunications, and local transportation expenses. The IRCF is seeking donations to expand its support in Haiti and for its other supported programs.