The Blue Iguana or Grand Cayman
Iguana (Cyclura lewisi) is a critically endangered species of
lizard of the genus Cyclura endemic to the island of Grand Cayman. Previously listed as a
subspecies of the Cuban Iguana, it was reclassified as a
separate species in 2004 because of genetic differences discovered four years earlier. The Blue Iguana is one of
the longest-living species of lizard (possibly up to 69 years). The record is 67
(Click on image to enlarge)
The Blue Iguana prefers dwelling in rocky, sunlit, open areas in dry forests or near the shore, as the
females must dig holes in the sand to lay eggs in June and July. A possible second clutch is laid in September.
The Blue Iguana's vegetarian diet includes plants, fruits,
and flowers. Its coloration is tan to gray with a bluish cast that is more pronounced during the breeding season
and more so in males. It is large and heavy-bodied with a dorsal crest of short spines running from the base of
the neck to the end of the tail.
The fossil record indicates that the Blue Iguana was abundant before European colonization; but fewer than
15 animals remained in the wild by 2003, and this wild population was predicted to become extinct within the first decade of the
21st century. The species' decline is mainly being driven by predation by feral pets (cats and dogs)
and indirectly by the destruction of their natural habitat as fruit farms are converted to
pasture for cattle grazing. Since 2004, 219 captive-bred animals have been released into a preserve on
Grand Cayman run by a partnership headed by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, in an
attempt to save the species. At least five non-profit organizations are working with the government of the
Cayman Islands to ensure the survival of the Blue Iguana.