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Jamaica News Today-The Jamaican iguana, an international success story in conservation

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once thought to be extinct

the Jamaican iguana which was

rediscovered in the hellshire Hills of

st. Catherine in the 1990s is once again

thriving although still very much

endangered when the latest batch of 50

reptiles breaded the hope zoo in st.

Andrew was turned loose on March 6th

this year in the hellshire Hills it

marked the largest number of iguana has

ever released at one time under the

program this is significant for

conservationists Andorra grant a member

of the San Diego Zoo Institute for

conservation research in the United

States she led a recent group of 11

volunteers from five zoos in the United

States and supervised the latest release

of the reptiles back into the wild grant

has been coming to Jamaica since 1996

and was full of praise for the hoaxes

head start and reintroduction program

for the Jamaican iguana which she

described as one of the Caribbeans

unique species she said the program was

of the utmost importance since the

reptile was critically endangered

Milton Rybak general curator at the Hope

Zoo gets ready to release into the

hellshire hills the first iguana

hatchling taken from the Hope Zoo in

1991 this particular iguana was released

because of its genetic importance Rybak

said

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also in photo from left are Melissa to

Mingus and conservationist and or a

grant of the San Diego Zoo Institute for

conservation research in the United

States while Kenny Benjamin the

executive chairman of the Guardsman

group of companies which rehabilitated

and manages the hope zoo expressed that

Jamaicans do not readily appreciate the

importance of the program because they

see the Iguana as just a lizard grant

noted that around the world it is highly

regarded the Jamaican iguana

conservation story is really one of the

most successful international stories

for conservation it's well known

throughout the world and it's because we

have promoted it as well she told loop

news while it is going well the

conservationist cautioned that it is not

over yet

and like most conservation programs it

takes a long time to see success and

there are signs that there have been

improvements since the guardsman group

took over the running of the zoo grant

said we have had much better health for

the iguanas and we have been able to

ramp up our efforts in that regard

this year we have been able to release

50 animals back to the wild and we

brought in 72 hatchlings this year so we

are hoping that with improvements in

diet and husbandry of the iguanas that

we will be able to headstart more

animals each year she explained

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a Jamaican iguana that was just released

in the wild in the hellshire Hills gets

curious about one of the traps that are

used to capture the mungus and feral

cats that stalk the hills that it calls

home despite the optimism grant pointed

to a major stumbling block as well the

program at the zoo is going very well

the iguanas have a very small space in

which they can live in the wild because

of the mungus feral cats and fury' bugs

in the area it's a complete threat I t's

an entire threat grant stressed when

asked about the extent of the danger the

iguanas face from the fear all animals

in the hellshire hills to prove her

point

she said when the iguanas were

rediscovered there was nothing but older

adult animals living in the wild no

babies no younger animals no sub animals

because the mongus had eaten every

single hatchling in the wild so even

today when we head start 40 a year now

recently 70 everything else that is

released is pretty much going to die as

mungus food last year we had 250

hatchlings and we were only able to

bring 70 into the zoo grant said for

those left in the wild grant said

probably one or two will survive but

everything else will be eaten without

the headstart program

but the conservationists are fighting

back and are now doing extensive

trapping of mungus and cats in the

protective area and there could be a

silver lining ahead with the protected

goat islands playing a major role Grant

revealed if we reintroduce the animals

on to the goat Islands I think we could

say that we have achieved a huge success

right now we have been able to bring the

animal back from the brink of extinction

in that we have now released as of March

6 399 iguanas to the wild and we see a

good population surviving up from a few

dozen back in the 1990s but just how far

away are the conservationists from

releasing the animals back onto the goat

islands the two government agencies with

responsibility for managing the area are

the Urban Development Corporation and

the National Environment and planning

agency NEPA according to grant a

Memorandum of Understanding has been

drafted between the two agencies and as

soon as the MU is signed then we can

move forward with our action plan which

will be to make the islands completely

free of predators it would be a massive

eradication of the goats

mungus and fuel cats that live on the

islands she said as cruel as that sounds

grant was quick to point out that that

effort the eradication of fuel animals

is pretty straightforward although it's

intensive it's something that's been

done on many islands throughout the

world to make them safe havens again for

wildlife

in fact the goat islands may be the last

hope for other endangered species as

once the funeral animals are removed

then we can release not just iguanas but

Jamaican boas and ponies and smaller

refuge species that's been wiped out

from the area as well said an optimistic

grant she said this could all be

realized in two to three years fo are

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