“Most people presume there is no downside to working in the Caribbean, and I am constantly ribbed about lounging around on the beach under the coconut palms. In actuality, most of my work is accomplished aboard our 40 year-old research vessel, where I spend up to half of each year away from home navigating not just the ocean, but also the miles of red tape that go along with conducting conservation research in multiple island nations. Of course, working in the Caribbean has its upside too, especially for a biologist who is passionate about iguanas and their conservation!”
— Dr. Glenn Gerber, Caribbean Program Head, San Diego Zoo Global
Our efforts in the Caribbean over the past 18 years are proving successful in saving the region’s iguana species from extinction. In several countries, we have helped pioneer strategies for headstarting juvenile rock iguanas so that they are less vulnerable to mammalian predators. In the Turks and Caicos Islands, we have re-established thriving iguana populations on several islands from which they had gone extinct. Reintroduced headstarted iguanas on Anegada Island are exhibiting a remarkable 87% survival rate. At the state-of-the-art Kenneth C. and Anne D. Griffin Reptile Conservation Center, we have succeeded in breeding the most critically endangered iguanas in the world.
The conservation challenges of the 21st century are unprecedented, and time is not on our side. Nevertheless, the alternative – extinction – is not an acceptable outcome. In response, we have initiated several new collaborative projects. These include in-depth studies of Ricord’s iguanas on Hispaniola to enhance conservation efforts for this critically endangered species, conducting the first on-island translocations of critically endangered Turks and Caicos iguanas to learn if they can be successfully moved from the path of development without relocating them to another island, and construction of a multi-species iguana headstarting facility in Puerto Rico.