Hope hatches for critically endangered lizard on the brink of extinction
Wednesday 19 September 2007
ZSL London Zoo is celebrating the birth of nine critically endangered Utila iguanas (Ctenosaura bakeri). Native to just one tiny Caribbean island, Utila, the tree-dwelling lizards are part of a European conservation breeding programme launched to save them from extinction.
Affectionately known as Swampers – because in the wild they live in swamps – the dragon-like lizard babies have never been born at the zoo before. They measure up to 15cm including a 12cm tail and are already enjoying a healthy diet of small insects and leafy greens!
The species is so rare that the babies are being kept backstage ready to be exported next month to zoos in Spain, Poland and California to continue the breeding programme.
Utila iguanas are unique because they are the only type of spiny-tailed iguana to live in mangrove swamps. The pregnant female also lays her eggs on sandy beaches, instead of in the mangroves.
ZSL’s Curator of Herpetology, Richard Gibson, said: “The future of the Utila iguana is currently hanging in the balance, as their habitat, especially nesting beaches, is under threat from tourist and residential developments. It was less then 10 years ago that the species arrived in European zoos and the breeding project has proven so successful, it should ensure their long-term survival if something terrible were to happen in the wild.”