Rock Iguana


©Glen Gerber, San Diego Zoo

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The critically endangered Grand Cayman and Jamaican iguanas (Cyclura spp.) are the two most endangered rock iguana species. Although rock iguanas are not considered marine reptiles, they are proficient swimmers and can spend long periods of time in the water when necessary. They have even been known to survive hurricanes and floods!

The greatest threats affecting both rock iguanas are human-related and include habitat loss, vulnerability to invasive species, and being hunted. The Jamaican iguana population is estimated to be between 50 and 200 individuals and most are found in the Hellshire Hills forest, which is being degraded by charcoal production. The Grand Cayman iguana population is estimated to be between 100 and 200 individuals and its habitat is being encroached upon by agriculture and tourism, however hunting and road-kill related deaths are also common. Both populations are also vulnerable to introduced predatory species such as the mongoose, and feral cats and dogs which feed on juvenile, nesting female and even some adult rock iguanas.

The AZA Lizard Taxon Advisory Group and the Rock Iguana Species Survival Plan® Program manage more than 20 Jamaican Iguanas in and 25 Grand Cayman iguanas in 14 AZA-accredited zoos. AZA scientists are engaged in in situ research and conservation initiatives including population surveys, collecting blood samples for genetic analyses, and installing signs on beaches within iguana habitats to educate tourists about the need to conserve these animals. AZA biologists are also involved in reintroduction programs for both species and since 1996, 20 Jamaican iguanas, equipped with transmitters and monitored by radio-telemetry, have been released in their native Hellshire Hills.

The AZA Conservation Endowment Fund, and one of its sub-funds, the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, has provided over $82,000 in support of rock iguana conservation projects including:

  • $24,951 to the Blue Iguana Recovery Program and the National Trust for the Cayman Islands for the expansion of their iguana hatchery and headstart programs and the development of iguana educational programs.
  • $10,850 to John G. Shedd Aquarium and the Phoenix Zoo for research on the ecology and conservation of the Bahamian Rock Iguanas.
  • $24,990 to the Zoological Society of San Diego and the Fort Worth Zoological Gardens for the restoration of the West Indian Rock Iguanas.
  • $16,500 to the Fort Worth Zoological Gardens for Jamaican Iguana conservation and field research.
  • $5,000 to the Fort Worth Zoological Park for Jamaican Iguana Field Conservation.

Rock Iguana Facts

Status Critically Endangered
Size Iguanas can grow to 6 feet long and weigh up to 20 pounds.
Appearance Grand Cayman iguanas are bluish grey, and males can become bright, cobalt blue. Jamaican iguanas are light brown with slate blue or green highlights, dark bands and a blue dorsal crest.
Habitat Rock iguanas are found only on islands in the Caribbean such as the Bahamas, Virgin Islands, and Greater Antilles.
Diet They are herbivorous (plant eating) and consume an impressive diversity of vegetation types including leaves, fruits and flowers.
Breeding Iguanas breed seasonally, with a single clutch laid in the spring of each year.

What are AZA-accredited Zoos and Aquariums Doing for Rock Iguanas?