Report submitted by
Rosanna Carreras De León, Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo
Stesha Pasachnik, San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research
Like many iguana species, Cyclura cornuta populations are threatened throughout the Dominican Republic (DR) because of habitat destruction, harvesting, and invasive mammals. However, these iguanas face a unique threat as well. In 2012, we began to recognize that iguanas held in “iguanarios” were being haphazardly moved, held, and often bred throughout the country without proper organization, husbandry, or regard for genetics.
Though captive breeding programs are certainly viable conservation strategies, the iguanario scenario in the DR is in dire need of improvement if it is to become a responsible conservation measure. Starting in the summer of 2014, we held a workshop inviting all pertinent parties to address these issues and formulate a plan for the future. We are now gearing up for the second workshop, have just completed our site visits to the various facilities (iguanarios) to invite them to the 2015 workshop, and check-in to see how their improvements are progressing.
We were very happy to find that many of the iguanarios made great improvements to their enclosures by increasing the number of retreat sites, providing the necessary amount of sunlight, supplying the right dietary items, and are taking steps towards addressing the breeding issues of concern. Many of the iguanarios also improved their signage to provide visitors with the correct information about this species.
Unfortunately, we did encounter some iguanarios that are still suffering from overcrowding, generally poor facility conditions, and poor dietary options. In addition, we found that a few facilities were continuing to breed iguanas without any long-term plan (resulting in overcrowding), poor care for hatchlings, and disregard for genetics. We also identified one particular facility that is having such a great overcrowding issue (and are continuing to breed), that they are promoting the illegal development of additional iguanarios as a means of getting rid of their excess individuals. Lastly, we identified two locations with invasive Common Green Iguanas, some in very poor condition. It should be noted however, that the facilities showing the least improvements are those that either did not attend the workshop entirely or sent employees that are not in a position to make changes. We thus feel hopeful that we can continue to work with these organizations in the future, train staff in our workshops, improve the well-being of the captive iguanas in the DR, and work towards a suitable conservation plan for the future.