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Grand Cayman Blue Iguana

ABQ BioPark one of select few U.S. facilities to house endangered iguana

The Grand Cayman blue iguana's plight is quite the conservation story - the species dwindled to just 15 in the wild by 2003 due to habitat destruction, conflict with automobiles, and predation by feral cats and dogs. Conservationists even predicted the species, which is endemic to the Grand Cayman Island, would become extinct within the first decade of the 21st century. However, a strong conservation push brought the species back to about 750 wild iguanas by 2015.

The ABQ BioPark welcomed a small group of endangered Grand Cayman blue iguanas in 2015 and is an important part of current-day conservation efforts for the species—the zoo hopes to produce a contingency population in case the wild population suffers another decline.

Not just any zoo can start a blue iguana breeding program—in 2015, the ABQ BioPark was one of only 15 U.S. facilities housing the species. Before receiving the lizards, the zoo had to meet specific criteria including having experienced staff and proper facility/enclosures.

Although the BioPark has several blue iguanas, only one male and female will be on exhibit at one time—male blue iguanas can be territorial, especially in the presence of a female.

The Grand Cayman blue iguana is named after the islands from which it hails—Grand Cayman Island is the largest of the three Cayman Islands, and is situated just south of Cuba and west of Jamaica in the Caribbean. The species is the largest vertebrate endemic to that island.

Blue iguanas are vegetarians that eat mostly leafy greens, but they are also opportunistic. The ABQ BioPark’s iguanas enjoy grapes.

As its name implies, the iguana is known for its blue coloring, which becomes more intense during mating season and when males combat over territory and females. The coloration, which can run from turquoise to bright blue, is also dependent on each individual iguana.

Male blue iguanas measure in at about 4-5 feet compared to females, which top out at about 3.5 feet. The males also have more pronounced spines on their back.

Females leave between 4-20 eggs and hatchlings have a high survival rate in zoos (about 75-80 percent).

Our Actions Matter

The blue iguana nearly disappeared in the wild due to habitat destruction, conflicts on roads, and predation by feral cats and dogs. You can help protect blue iguanas by supporting the International Iguana Foundation, which is taking the lead to help this species recover.

Did you know?

  • The blue iguana can get up to 5 feet long and 30 pounds, making it one of the heaviest species of iguana and most massive lizard in the Western Hemisphere.
  • Blue iguanas have a golden iris and red sclera and have excellent vision. They are mostly terrestrial but will do some climbing, especially when they are young.
  • The blue iguana is one of the longest-living species of lizard on the planet (possibly up to 69 years).