On 26 February 2005 another group of headstarted Jamaican Iguanas was repatriated to their native habitat in the remote Hellshire Hills of southeastern coastal Jamaica. Sixteen iguanas were released as part of a joint collaborative endeavor between the Hope Zoo, University of the West Indies (UWI) and the Fort Worth Zoo. This is the second “hard release” meaning that iguanas are released without radio-transmitters for monitoring. Based on previous successful survival rates among released Jamaican Iguanas, the semi-adult headstarted iguanas are considered to be at low risk and are not radio-tracked post-release. However the new iguana biologist working in Hellshire, Rick van Veen, is in the field full time now and expects to see a number of the new iguanas from time to time. To make recognition easier in the bush, each iguana is labeled with bright neon harmless paint – pink for females, yellow for males – and tagged with colored bead tags in the dorsal neck crest. These visual IDs work well from a distance, but once the iguana is in hand, the biologist reads the PIT tag number with a battery powered scanner that reveals a unique 10-digit code from an implant under the skin. These tags are inserted when the iguanas hatch and stay with the iguana for life.
The field research program is under the direction of Dr. Byron Wilson of UWI and the captive iguana headstarting program is managed at Kingston’s Hope Zoo. A veterinary team from the Fort Worth Zoo provided medical support and conducted pre-release health screening exams on each iguana before it was cleared to go.
This release was funded by the International Iguana Foundation and brings to 76 the number of Jamaican Iguanas that have been released since 1996.