Fifteen years ago, the Anegada iguana conservation program was established to offset the mortality rate of young iguanas on the small island of Anegada in the British Virgin Islands. Since then, Fort Worth Zoo conservation biologists have made significant strides in the conservation of this species. These accomplishments include determining the optimal size and survivability of released headstarted animals, initiating a mark-and-recapture program, creating a secondary means of population monitoring and maintaining support of the headstart program.
Despite a recent extensive drought, the number of Anegada iguana hatchings has been encouraging. A camera trapping study produced important data for monitoring this species and the island’s residents participated in Iguana Fest, a day-long celebration of the Anegada iguana.
Fort Worth Zoo Conservation Biologist Kelly Bradley hosted two groups of college students from all over the United States as part of the Zoo’s “Conservation Expeditions” program. Students worked in the field with Bradley studying and measuring iguanas, working at the headstart facility and collaborating on a camera trapping study. The 16 motion-censored camera traps were set up around the island to collect health, composition, density, distribution and behavioral information of the wild iguana population, released headstarted animals, feral cats and livestock. The cameras are continuously capturing images, which have produced long-term survival and movement/dispersal data about the Anegada iguanas that have been released from the headstart facility.
A festival was held outside the Anegada Iguana Headstart Facility to celebrate the island’s native species. About 100 people (one-third of the island’s population) participated in Iguana Fest, which included an art contest, a fun run/walk, breakfast, games and a cookout.
“The festival was created to generate a greater sense of pride and ownership for the recovery of the Anegada iguana,” Bradley said. “Despite Tropical Storm Raphael blowing through the British Virgin Islands that day, I was very pleased with the event – you could feel the camaraderie and excitement.” Based on the success of the inaugural event, Bradley plans to make Iguana Fest an annual celebration.