The ABQ BioPark, home of Albuquerque’s Zoo, Aquarium, Botanic Garden and Tingley Beach, located in Albuquerque, New Mexico might soon have some new little residents. Lola, the 12-year-old Grand Cayman blue iguana is gravid, meaning she’s carrying eggs.
The ABQ BioPark found out that Lola was gravid after performing a series of ultrasounds in her enclosure and vet staff and keepers made the discovery on her fourth ultrasound which took place on April 20.
While staff won’t know if they’re fertile for a while, they did witness mating behavior between Lola and her mate, 9-year-old Igor, so the BioPark is hopeful for some hatchlings in a few months.
Under the direction of the Species Survival Plan (SSP), if the eggs are fertile, a certain number will be artificially incubated for the best chance at success. Igor’s genetic line is of special interest to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), so any offspring will help maintain a healthy and dynamic Grand Cayman blue iguana population in AZA-accredited facilities.
The ABQ BioPark is home to three Grand Cayman blue iguanas: mates 12-year-old Lola and 9-year-old Igor, and 12-year-old Frankenstein.
The ABQ BioPark is one of 23 AZA-accredited facilities to house the Cayman Islands Blue Iguana and one of only two that have a priority recommended breeding pair.
Reptile Keeper Phil Mayhew visited Grand Cayman from March 25-April 1 to learn about the species in a New Mexico BioPark Society funded trip.
During his time in Cayman, Mayhew released the Blue Iguana Conservation (BIC) facility’s 1,018th iguana. He also helped BIC staff process more than 100 hatchlings, which entailed helping with medical exams, tagging and microchipping.
BIC is staffed by Luke Harding, two full time employees and one part time employee who do everything from gathering the iguana’s diet from the wild each day, and performing any needed construction along with surveys and general iguana care.
“It’s an incredible amount of work for four people to take care of nearly 300 iguanas,” Mayhew said. “It was eye-opening coming from a facility with a diet room, maintenance staff and other specialists.”
Mayhew said his experience will make a positive impact on the BioPark’s blue iguana care program.
“I learned a lot of tricks from Luke,” Mayhew said. One thing that Mayhew brought back is new diet ideas. The BioPark is now incorporating foods that are more reflective of the species’ wild diet, including a new type of mulberry. Mayhew also said he’d like to include more perching opportunities for the BioPark’s blue iguanas after observing some climbing behaviors among their wild counterparts.
In the future, Mayhew hopes to help secure funding for BIC to help build a new nursery for the hatchling iguanas. This will help to set a carrying capacity for the facility as well as improve care with updated enclosures for the young iguanas.
Mayhew called his Cayman trip an “awesome experience.”
“Everyone there was very welcoming and Luke is a godsend,” he said. “The amount of work he’s been doing is phenomenal. It’s very eye-opening to see how many directions one person can get pulled and still do an effective job.”