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San Salvador Island Iguana Facility


Conservation benefit: Headstarting facility for the endangered iguana that is endemic to San Salvador Island

Date Approved: 07.2011

In 2007, three groups on San Salvador Island (population 1,000) worked together to apply to the Bahamas government for a 22,328-acre (94-square-km) land and sea national park. The proposed park would encompass diverse marine and terrestrial habitats and protect the most threatened habitats and critical ecological services. The proposal has since been bogged down in government bureaucracy.

In an attempt to refocus attention on the proposal and jump-start conservation efforts on the island, the three groups have come together to propose a high-visibility conservation program with two components: an iguana headstarting facility and publication of a children’s book that underscores the plight of threatened Bahamian animals.

The endangered iguana is endemic to San Salvador Island. Roughly 500 individuals of this flagship species remain, scattered among six small low-elevation cays, where they remain vulnerable to a number of threats. The iguana facility will be built at the Gerace Research Centre (GRC), a premier research and educational facility operated by the College of the Bahamas. The GRC, Loma Linda University, and nonprofit group San Salvador Living Jewels will jointly manage the facility. Headstarted individuals will be released to carefully selected sites.

Once established, the facility should become financially self-sustaining, drawing support from local islanders and tourists who visit it. Similar reptile headstarting facilities on Grand Cayman Island, Costa Rica, and the Galapagos Islands have become important educational institutions.

Project Updates

June 2014

The project partners have been preoccupied with an attempted smuggling of 13 San Salvador iguanas that took place in February 2014 (the violators were intercepted in the UK; all but one of the iguanas lived through their harrowing ordeal, though two have since died). The remaining 10 are now safely housed at the Seacology-funded facility.

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February 2014

Bahamas field representative Lindsey McCoy submitted the following report regarding a recent meeting focusing on the establishment of San Salvador as a national park: “Forum Panelists discussed the primary topic of establishing San Salvador’s National Park with nearly 100 community members present. Panelists included The Hon. Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) and Member of Parliament (MP) for San Salvador, former PM Senior Policy Advisor Mr. Philip Smith and Local Government Administrator Mr. Harvey Roberts. The community of San Salvador showed outstanding attendance and support! There are collaborative efforts to revise and freshen San Salvador’s national park proposal, which will be submitted by the end of January 2014. Upon park designation, San Salvador has a rare opportunity to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site! The Bahamas recently signed off on three required UNESCO treaties. MP Hon. Brave Davis concluded that the time has come for us to implement San Salvador’s National Park.”

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June 2013

There are three males and five females in the main pen now. The baby that was born last fall is in a small separate cage. They all seem to be doing very well. Four of the females appear to have put on quite a bit of weight so hopefully they are preparing to lay some eggs in the next month or so.

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May 2012

After delays due to hurricanes, the layout and design for the structures were complete last fall and actual construction of the pens began in January. The main exhibition and education iguana pen, which was designed not just for breeding iguanas but also for the public to enjoy, is now completed. Two students from Loma Linda University traveled to San Salvador to assist. Supplies have been ordered to build the additional wire/lumber enclosures for the juvenile iguanas. The grand opening took place on May 9th to coincide with Seacology’s dive trip to the Bahamas.

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Full or partial funding for this project provided by CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank.