The Lesser Antillean Iguana on St. Eustatius: A 2012 population status update and cause for concern

Summary 

To assess the status and current population densities of the endangered Lesser Antillean Iguana (Iguana delicatissima) on the island of St. Eustatius, we spent more than 80 h searching for iguanas and covered more than 63 km of trails and tracks — but found only 22 iguanas, for an overall average of 3.7 h per iguana. Overall population density was 0.35 iguanas per hectare, which represents 0.5–1.0% of densities documented elsewhere in healthy populations. Population densities have declined across all habitats since the last assessment in 2004. The lack of nesting sites and high iguana mortalities due to anthropogenic causes were the two core factors limiting recovery of iguanas on St. Eustatius.

Our principal recommendations are to:

  • (a) Train and equip border officials to prevent potential entry of mongooses and Green Iguanas from neighboring islands;
  • (b) implement enforcement and upgrade protective legislation;
  • (c) develop and maintain new additional nesting habitat, a measure that is both easy and inexpensive; and
  • (d) establish a program to promoto "iguana-friendly" gardens as the main means of reducing cumulative mortality.

Finally, we propose the development of an in situ husbandry and breeding program to help bolster the overall recovery program, a move that would also benefit islanders by offering a relaxed setting in which they could better learn to appreciate this emblematic island species.