Conservation Update on the Sandy Cay Rock Iguana (Cyclura rileyi cristata)

Presented by Sandra D. Buckner

Sandra D. Buckner, William K. Hayes, John B. Iverson, Jill M. Jollay, Phillip S. Weech, Steve Smith, Pat Hayes, Seila Iverson, and James Traverse

Cyclura rileyi is one of three species of rock iguana endemic to the Bahamas archipelago. All species of Cyclura in The Bahamas are protected under the Wild Animals Protection Act 1968 and the Wildlife Conservation and Trade Act, 2004, and are listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered or Critically Endangered and are CITES Appendix I. On 3 February 2014, thirteen rock iguanas (Cyclura rileyi sp.) were discovered at London Heathrow Airport by officers of the United Kingdom Border Force smuggled in the luggage of two Romanian women arriving from The Bahamas on a British Airways flight. Twelve of the rock iguanas were alive and one was dead. First reported to be “San Salvador” rock iguanas, investigations and the presence of PIT tags confirmed the iguanas were Cyclura rileyi cristata from the Exumas. The 12 rock iguanas were repatriated on 9 July 2014. Three of the repatriated iguanas died within 24 hours of arrival back in The Bahamas. The surviving nine Rock Iguanas were quarantined and then on 13 September 2014 were released into the wild on a selected cay within a National Park free of an existing iguana population and approximately 20 km from the source cay in the Exumas. On 24-26 March 2015 with the permission and support of the Bahamas Government (Bahamas Environment Science and Technology Commission) and the Bahamas National Trust twenty-seven Cyclura rileyi cristata were selected from the source cay and released on to the cay that was now home to the repatriated rock iguanas. This translocation brought the number of rock iguanas in that sub-population to thirty-six thus establishing a second sub-population of this subspecies previously restricted to one unprotected cay. Monitoring of and research into these two sub-populations of Cyclura rileyi cristata will be ongoing.

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