The Lau Banded Iguana is an Endangered species found on several landmasses in the Lau Island Group in Fiji. Remaining populations are declining in the wild and nowhere are they considered secure. Surveys of islands where they should have been present show they are either extremely rare or completely absent. Where found, the iguanas are generally restricted to remnant forest patches.
The Lau Banded Iguana is threatened by non-native invasive species such as Black Rats, free-roaming domestic pigs and goats, and most singularly feral cats. Forest burning in Fiji’s Lau islands is widespread and the continuation of this practice is likely to cause additional local extinctions in the future. Additional threats to the native forests include the expansion of urban, village, and tourist areas, as well as logging of important food and shelter trees that iguanas need.
Lau Banded Iguanas are sometimes locally kept as pets which is likely to negatively impact remaining wild populations. Also, although fully protected in Appendix I by CITES (the Conventional on International Trade in Endangered Species), illegal trafficking of Fiji’s iguanas for the commercial hobbyist pet trade has emerged as a potential threat to their survival. All Fijian iguanas held privately outside of the country, have been trafficked or descended from animals illegally collected in Fiji and smuggled out of the country.
To date, there are no significant conservation measures in place for the Lau Banded Iguana, so the IIF has been funding small-scale research projects to help change that. In preparation is a Species Action Plan for all Fijian iguanas, that highlights specific conservation actions needed to improve their threat status. Previous IIF grants have included population surveys, breeding site assessments, ranger programs, and conservation genetics analyses. Further conservation recommendations will need to focus on invasive predator control, habitat protection, improved forestry and agricultural practices, and education and outreach to local communities.