Categorized | National News

Park Wardens Help Study Rare Bahamian Rock Iguanas

Bahamas National Trust park wardens recently joined an international research team to learn more about the rare and endangered Bahamian Rock Iguana.

BNT park wardens Shenica Campbell, the new park warden in Nassau and Grand Bahama Deputy Park Warden Ellsworth Weir, participated in the research expedition organised by the Shedd Aquarium for a week-long research expedition in the Exuma Cays.

The purpose of the trip was to assess the health of the iguana populations on the cays, to record information and to insert identification tags into the skin of the ones that were not already being studied. The research project took body measurements and blood samples from the iguanas, identified and recorded the sex of the iguanas, removed ticks, recorded other injuries and if the iguana had been captured before, compared the current health of the iguana to the information previously recorded.

“I learned about the importance of conservation as it relates to the endangered Bahamian Rock Iguana,” Mr. Weir said.

“Feeding them takes them away from their natural food cycle and also causes problems for the iguanas. It is also dangerous to allow people to hand feed them since a red fingernail can be mistaken for food.”

Rock Iguanas in The Bahamas are protected by the Wild Animals Protection Act, as they are currently listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list as “rare.”

Additionally, the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) lists the Rock Iguana as near extinction or very endangered. As a result, the trade of iguanas across nations is prohibited. Subspecies of the Bahamian Rock Iguanas are found on Andros, San Salvador, Acklins, Mayaguana and in the Exuma Cays.

“Once again we had a very successful expedition because of everyone’s efforts. We captured and processed a total of 205 iguanas; moreover, thanks to the hard work of the team, we observed and processed the most iguanas on Pasture Cay since 2006,” said Chuck Knapp, facilitator of the Research Trip, Shedd Aquarium.

The research trip started in Georgetown, Exuma aboard the research vessel R/VCoral Reef II and sailed to numerous cays before returning to Nassau.

In addition to the iguana study, the BNT team also assisted the Island Conservation Organisation with the eradication of the invasive rats on some of the cays.

This research trip has taken place every year since the late 1970s, rotating between the Exumas and Andros. This year’s research team included members of Shedd’s staff, interested scientists and BNT staff members.
“The intent of the park wardens attending the research trip was for us to participate and learn about the research through hands on training,” Mr. Weir explained.

“By participating in the research, we were able to play a greater part in learning about the iguanas, and we are now able to educate others about the great importance of this work.”

Next year’s trip will visit Andros.

Both the BNT and the Shedd Aquarium hope the success of this year will be matched on next year’s research trip.

“We need to educate more people about this, as a tagged iguana can be monitored throughout its life, and population growth can be gauged through new captures,” Mr. Weir explained.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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