In what can only be described as a landmark event, three Grand Cayman Blue Iguanas have hatched in the Salina Reserve, without the benefit of human assistance!
In December 2004, 23 Grand Cayman Blue Iguanas were released into the National Trust’s Salina Reserve, inland from the Queen’s Highway in the East End to establish a second population of wild iguanas. The released iguanas had been headstarted in captivity for two years. In 2005, 73 more 2–year olds were released in the same area of the Salina Reserve.
As a partner of the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, the International Iguana Foundation has aided in recovery through financial grants awarded in 2004 and 2005 for Blue Iguana release projects.
A captive breeding program headquartered at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park had begun in 1990. Iguana eggs were incubated and the hatchlings carefully nurtured. Since that time, about 80 iguana have been released into the Park’s 65 acres, where they are a significant attraction for visitors. It is estimated there are approximately 30 iguanas remaining in the Park.
For the past two summers, teams of local and international volunteers monitored the iguanas released in the Salina. This year, three females from the 2004 release were seen digging nests to lay eggs. On Friday, 8 September 2006, observers saw that one of those nest sites had developed a hole, indicating that the eggs inside may have hatched with the hatchlings digging their way to the surface.
The nest was carefully excavated, and three perfect, hatched eggshells were recovered from a chamber a foot under the ground. Fred Burton, director of the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, suggested the hatchlings probably dispersed in search of safe retreats, as they have not yet been observed. The other two nests, which were laid later in the summer are still being monitored.