In November 2019, members of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Iguana Specialist Group (which includes Fort Worth Zoo staff) met on Roatán with local experts and stakeholders to draft a species Conservation Action Plan for Roatán spiny-tailed iguanas. This iguana is endangered due primarily to overharvesting for human consumption and sale and is found only on the small island of Roatán within the Bay Islands of Honduras.
The overall goal of the plan was to identify and prioritize conservation and management actions that are necessary to ensure the long-term survival of the Roatán spiny-tailed iguanas. The plan details the following necessary steps:
- create an impactful outreach and education program for locals and tourists;
- continue and expand on monitoring efforts for these iguanas;
- gain a better understanding of the reproductive biology of the species;
- reduce the threats associated with invasive and exotic species;
- and ensure the long-term protection of these unique iguanas.
Achieving these objectives is monumental and will take the cooperation and dedication of many people and organizations, but it will ensure that this unique portion of Honduras biodiversity remains for generations to come. The action plan is intended to be adaptive, changing as the situation on Roatán and in Honduras changes, and as certain objectives are met or discovered unattainable. This plan will aid in management decisions and guide funding initiatives for this species and help raise awareness to this unique and understudied part of Mesoamerican biodiversity.
In light of the current situation with Covid 19 this plan is all the more important. Precautionary measures associated with Covid-19 have caused the entire island of Roatán to be on mandatory lockdown, preventing all tourism activities, the main source of income on this small island. This in turn has increased harvesting pressure on local wildlife, including the endemic iguana. The Fort Worth Zoo has been involved in this program since 2016, supporting annual research and capacity building activities on Roatán. This Conservation Action Plan is in the final stages of formatting and will be published shortly. The Zoo looks forward to working with our partners putting the Plan into practice!