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Campaign on to save blue iguanas
Published on Thursday, August 9, 2007Email To Friend    Print Version


(From left) John Gray Recyclers’ Chantal Pearson; teacher Christine Whitehead;
Caribbean Utilities Company’s Corporate Communications Officer Neil Murray; John
Gray Recyclers President Gloria Borden; and CUC Corporate Communications Manager
Caren Ann Thompson show the new posters that differentiate between two species of
iguanas. The posters are sponsored by CUC.

Educational efforts are underway to help the public take one more step toward protecting the critically endangered Grand Cayman blue iguana.

The John Gray Recyclers have teamed with Caribbean Utilities Company (CUC) and the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme to produce a colourful poster, visualising the differences between indigenous blue iguanas, and non-native green iguanas.

Green iguanas, which are mainly from Central America, have been imported into Grand Cayman, most likely as pets. Many of them run wild across West Bay and George Town, and they are now migrating into the eastern districts. Some greens are also becoming road kill, especially on the Esterley Tibbetts Highway.

Currently, Cayman’s laws protect all iguanas, even the imported ones. This is why it is currently unlawful to capture or “deport” the tree-climbing, energetic green iguanas.

However, the laws do not distinguish the blue iguana from the green, nor Cayman’s other native iguana species – the Sister Isles rock iguana, which is found on Little Cayman and also on Cayman Brac – only because the green iguanas were not present in Cayman when the law was passed. Planned in the new National Conservation Law are measures which will allow the designation of endangered, uniquely native iguanas as distinct from the non-native ones.

It is concern for the welfare of the native blue iguana that prompted John Gray Recyclers, an after-school club of the John Gray High school led by teacher Christine Whitehead, to get involved. They wanted to do something about educating the public about the differences between the two species.

The John Gray Recyclers have been helping to preserve the Grand Cayman blue iguanas since the Cayman Islands’ quincentennial year. They were the first sponsors of the blue iguanas and named their sponsored iguana Quincy as it was the quincentennial year, Ms Whitehead said. They have continued to sponsor Quincy who has remained a captive iguana. They have also released blue iguanas, reared under a captive breeding programme, into their natural habitat on Grand Cayman.

This time, under the leadership of Ms Whitehead, the club members wanted to educate the public regarding the differences between the two species. “The dedication of the club’s members is such that even after graduating from high school, many former students continue to be actively involved in the club’s ongoing programmes,” Ms Whitehead said. The poster is one such programme.

Fred Burton, director of the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme, organised the design of the posters with John Binns from the International Reptile Conservation Foundation.

“Colour is a very confusing thing with iguanas - our unique Grand Cayman blues are only blue when they want to be noticed; otherwise they are cliff-rock grey. Meanwhile, the so-called green iguanas are only green when they are young, and their adults often even have blue heads. No wonder there is some confusion!” Mr Burton explained.

Production costs for the posters were underwritten by CUC, which commended the Recyclers for their ongoing dedication and commitment to the environment.

“We are pleased to have had the opportunity to play a role in their projects over the past 11 years,” noted CUC’s Corporate Communications Manager Caren Thompson. “We also applaud them for producing this outstanding poster, to help promote greater awareness of the need to ensure the survival of one of the earth’s most endangered reptiles.”

Ms Thompson also said that the Recyclers’ website (www.johngrayre cyclers.org) is an exceptional educational tool, and that CUC intends to continue supporting them in their efforts to preserve Cayman’s fragile environment.

Once school reopens in September, the poster will be distributed among educational institutions, and displayed in public places such as libraries, Ms Whitehead said. The posters will also go on sale, with proceeds going to the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme.

Commented Mr Burton, “I really hope this poster gets displayed all around the Island, because it shows very clearly how to tell our own endangered iguana apart from the common one that has invaded from Central America, and is almost becoming a pest.”

Mr Burton received an MBE among the Queen’s Birthday Honours announced in June this year, for his efforts towards conservation in the Cayman Islands.



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