BIC’s international partners celebrate Cayman’s 1500 wild blue iguanas | Loop Cayman Islands

The content originally appeared on: Cayman Compass

For the past two years, the Cayman Islands has designated a special day to celebrate the Grand Cayman blue iguana (Cyclura lewisi) and the efforts that have been made over many years to conserve the species. The second annual International Blue Iguana Day which took place at the Blue Iguana Conservation (BIC) Facility on May 8, attracted locals and foreigners alike, as well as remote celebrations by its partners and friends.

In 2002, when there were only 12 blue iguanas left in the wild, the Blue Iguana Conservation programme was initiated to protect and rehabilitate the lizards, with its most major milestone being celebrated in 2018 when the 1,000th blue iguana was released into the wild. Today there are an estimated 1,500 blue iguanas in the wild.

This success was in no small part due to the collaboration and support of Cayman’s International partners and friends who joined in BIC’s May 8 celebrations. The Wildlife Conservation Society celebrated the day with a blog post, and zoo partners such as Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, took to social media to help raise awareness around the efforts of the Blue Iguana Conservation Programme (BIC).

Jacksonville Zoo is involved in over 45 different conservation initiatives across the globe and in early March, team members, Cayle Pearson and Amie Mercado participated in BIC’s yearly blue iguana population survey and shared their skills and knowledge with the local team. Also involved in the survey effort was Andrew Kathriner, a wild animal keeper at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo herpetology department.

Cayle Pearson currently serves as a member of the steering committee for Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan programs for Jamaican and Grand Cayman Blue Iguanas.

Amie Mercado is a Senior Herpetology Keeper at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens where she cares for the reptiles in the zoo’s central and South American regions.

In his blog post entitled “Sapphires of the Caribbean,” Kathriner shared:

In 2016, WCS’s Bronx Zoo World of Reptiles completed a new exhibit for blue iguanas. I had been eager to travel to Grand Cayman to help BIC with their comprehensive survey work as well as learn from the iguanas firsthand about habitat parameters that would be conducive to successful reproduction. Our Exhibit Production Department had done an incredible job recreating their world in ours at the zoo, putting emphasis on mimicking the natural limestone formations and creating opportunities for the lizards to maximize heat exposure.

In 2022, to ensure proper care at the zoo, I was able to collect accurate measurements of heat and light exposure and find out about positive social cues between male and female iguanas. Hopefully, in the near future, we can welcome the next generation of blue iguanas at the Bronx Zoo.

In addition to the Bronx Zoo, blue iguanas can be found at a number of zoos in the United States including the San Diego Zoo, the Forth Worth Zoo, Central Florida Zoo, Brevard Zoo, Rolling Hills Zoo (Kansas) and most recently, in January this year, the blue iguana took up residence at the San Antonio zoo.