The Fort Worth Zoo is a longtime conservation partner of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Kew), and the National Parks Trust of the Virgin Islands (NPTVI) and together, the three organizations have made significant contributions to the critically endangered Anegada iguana population. Under Kew leadership, this partnership received a $353,7000 grant to continue the conservation work being done in the British Virgin Islands, including the island of Anegada.
The Anegada iguana is considered a “farmer of the forest;” it feeds on certain plants and then disperses the seeds all over the island, thus contributing to a thriving ecosystem. It became clear after the devastation caused from Hurricane Irma, that healthy forests play a key role in the resilience of the landscape and its natural resources. It is hypothesized by the team, that iguanas contribute to the diversity of the plant community on the island by continuously dispersing a variety of seeds all over the island year-round. Fort Worth Zoo biologist Kelly Bradley and the rest of the team will be studying plant-iguana relationships and surveying threatened plant and animal species to identify habitats that are able to withstand natural disasters. A more diversified plant community leads to a diverse population of animal species that are able to live in the ecosystem, thus contributing to thriving biodiversity. And a thriving ecosystem provides services to local residents that we might not even consider, like protection from erosion and mudslides because of dense forests or a healthy food source of fish that live in thriving mangroves.
This grant and research project will allow the team to make meaningful recommendations for species and habitat recovery and management. And could lead to the discovery of possible future release sites for the Anegada iguanas, so that they can continue to diversity plant life on the island through seed dispersing. We look forward to these future developments and conservation successes!
Learn about the Anegada iguana conservation project here.