The Ricord’s Iguana ranks among the more endangered iguanas in the world. Fighting for its survival are a handful of researchers, very enthusiastic Haitian and Dominican Republic youth, a local grassroots organization Grupo Jaragua, and the International Iguana Foundation.
Thought to have been hunted out from Haiti completely, Cyclura ricordii was believed to remain in only three small populations in the Dominican Republic. Then in 2008, IIF researchers discovered a tiny remaining population in Anse-à-Pitres, Haiti, on the extreme southeast coast.
Now researchers seek to protect this Critically Endangered iguana from loss of habitat to charcoal production and agriculture, as well as poaching and consumption by humans. In the genus Cyclura, five of the nine species are ranked as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and are in immediate need of intensive conservation intervention. C. ricordii is one of those ranked Critically Endangered, meaning that the species has a high risk of extinction.
The support of the NGO Grupo Jaragua for this iguana has been important. Having local support, information, and education working to stem the tide of poaching is a significant factor in the success of recovery programs. Youth groups have pitched in and worked with nests, hatchlings, and adult iguanas, sometimes in spite of cultural pressure towards poaching or consumption.
Working with community-based organizations like Organizasyon Jenes Aktif Ansapit in Anse-à-Pitres and Konsey Sitwayen Reyini Ansapit, the IIF is able to be a part of local community efforts as well as an integral component in the education of the greater Haitian and Dominican Republic communities.
Current work includes efforts to create a Municipally Protected Habitat in Haiti to save and protect this fragile population. If successful, this would be the first habitat of its kind protected in Haiti. In the Dominican Republic, a critical nesting habitat consisting of 49 acres (20 hectares) was purchased by the International Iguana Foundation to allow closer monitoring and protection of the Pedernales subpopulation. Camera traps are assisting researchers in studying the iguana’s movements, nesting, and predation.