Blue Iguana Slithers Back from Extinction

A male Grand Cayman Blue Iguana (Cyclura lewisi), one of more than 1,000 iguana species that have evolved through time. (Image credit: Fred Burton)

Just a decade ago, the Grand Cayman blue iguana was on the brink of extinction, with only 10 to 25 individuals left in the wild. But the reptile has made a major comeback and is no longer listed as a critically endangered species.

The blue iguana, which is only found on the Caribbean island Grand Cayman, now has a population of about 750 thanks to a recovery program. And over the weekend, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) updated its listing of the species from critically endangered to endangered.

An endangered status is probably the best conservationists could ever hope for as far as the reptile is concerned, said Fred Burton, director of the Blue Iguana Recovery Program.

"Human impacts on Grand Cayman are now so extensive that there just isn't scope for these iguanas to regain numbers in the tens of thousands," Burton explained in a statement. "However, we are confident that we will achieve our lon-term goal of restoring at least 1,000 Grand Cayman blue iguanas to the wild."

The blue iguana is the largest native species on Grand Cayman. The reptiles often grow to more than 5 feet (1.5 meters) in length and weighs more than 25 pounds (11 kilograms). They once ranged over most of the island's coastal areas and interior dry shrub lands before habitat destruction, car-related deaths and free-roaming dogs and cats pushed them toward extinction.

The recovery program involves habitat protection, research, monitoring and releasing captive-bred iguanas into the wild.

Follow LiveScience on Twitter @livescience. We're also on Facebook & Google+.

Live Science Staff
For the science geek in everyone, Live Science offers a fascinating window into the natural and technological world, delivering comprehensive and compelling news and analysis on everything from dinosaur discoveries, archaeological finds and amazing animals to health, innovation and wearable technology. We aim to empower and inspire our readers with the tools needed to understand the world and appreciate its everyday awe.