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Animal news
September 8, 2020

HIGHLY ENDANGERED ANTILLEAN IGUANA BORN

The highly endangered Antillean iguana (Iguana delicatissima) have been successfully breeding and one of the eggs hatched in Rotterdam Zoo, The Netherlands. A memorable moment for the international breeding program in which Rotterdam Zoo plays an important role. On May 15, 2018, four juvenile Antillean iguanas came to Rotterdam from St. Eustatius: two females and two males. By way of exception, the four Antillean iguanas were allowed to fly with the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in the government plane after his visit to the Dutch Caribbean. And now, more than two years later, the first young has been born.

Birth: a first for Rotterdam Zoo

The reptile keepers saw the mother busy digging in the earth in May this year. That is usually the sign she is going to lay eggs, and indeed, she did. As a precaution, the keepers placed the eggs in the incubator. After 98 days incubated at the right temperature and humidity, one of the eggs started to move. First the head came out. The next day the little iguana was completely hatched.

He was weighed and measured. Including the tail, the little iguana was 24.5 centimeters at birth. The body itself was 7.7 centimeters. It is now still light green in color and will get darker over the years. For now, the youngster, whose gender is not yet known, remains safely in a secluded area behind the scenes. The parent animals can be admired in the Nature Conservation Center in the Oceanium.

In danger of extinction

Within the Dutch Caribbean, the Antillean iguana is now only found on St. Eustatius. The causes of extinction are multifaceted, including habitat degradation, road casualties and threats from dogs, cats and goats. But the main cause of extinction is the displacement by and hybridization with the common, well-known green iguana. It does not naturally occur on St. Eustatius but was somehow brought to the Island. It is more robust and thus a formidable opponent of the native species. Hurricanes Irma and Maria in autumn 2017 also hit the small population of up to 600 iguanas hard by destroying much of their natural habitat.

Protection plan

The IUCN, the world’s largest conservation organization, drew up an action plan in 2014 to save this species from extinction. Because Rotterdam Zoo has a lot of experience and expertise in breeding reptiles, it volunteered to take on breeding with these animals. The total project is conducted in close collaboration with other nature conservation organizations: STENAPA, the manager of the National Park on St. Eustatius, RAVON, the knowledge organization of reptiles, amphibians and fish in the Netherlands and the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.