ROTTERDAM–Four iguanas from St. Eustatius made a highly unusual trip on Monday: they flew to the Netherlands on the Dutch Government jet, via St. Maarten on a chartered Winair aircraft. The Antillean iguanas, an endangered species, went to Rotterdam Blijdorp Zoo, where they will take part in a breeding programme.
The iguanas, two male and two female, arrived safe and sound at the zoo early Tuesday afternoon. Here the still-not-fully-grown iguanas of about one metre in length will accompany the zoo’s sole Antillean iguana, an elder male species measuring some 125 centimetres (cm) in length.
But first, the four island iguanas, which go by the scientific name Iguana delicatissima, must be quarantined for about three months, said Sandra Bijhold, who went to St. Eustatius to pick up the animals together with Tim van Wagensveld of the Dutch reptile expert organisation RAVON.
Bijhold and Van Wagensveld flew with the animals to St. Maarten; the iguanas were carried in two wooden crates. There they boarded the Dutch Government jet which was on the island in connection with the visit of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops to the Windward Islands on Sunday and Monday.
Thanks to the efforts of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK, the iguanas and their attendants were able to fly to the Netherlands with the Prime Minister and the State Secretary. Blijdorp Zoo stated it was very happy with this unique opportunity.
Airlines were hesitant to transport the iguanas, even though the paperwork was in order, but Rutte didn’t mind taking them with him. He showed a lot of interest in the animals and posed many questions, said Bijhold on Radio2. Because the government jet has no luggage compartment, the iguanas were placed in the aircraft’s meeting area.
The iguanas will play an important role in the international breeding programme of European zoos. Together with the Antillean iguanas in Jersey, England, and Vienna, Austria, they will help to safeguard the survival of this severely endangered species which lives on only a few Caribbean islands, including St. Eustatius. The idea is to create a reserve population with the 10 combined animals of the three zoos.
The Antillean iguana or Iguana delicatissima is under threat from traffic, cats, dogs, loss of habitat and the odd barbecue. However, the greatest threat to the creature is the green iguana which is abundant on all Caribbean islands. The green iguana is not only bigger and stronger but is also mating with the smaller species producing viable offspring.
Without a successful breeding programme and ongoing efforts to contain the green iguana on the islands where the Iguana delicatissima still lives, scientists calculate that the Antillean iguana could be history in 20 years. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) drafted an action plan a few years ago to protect the species from extinction.
Rotterdam Blijdorp Zoo has offered to take the four iguanas for a breeding programme, in cooperation with St. Eustatius Nature Parks Foundation Stenapa, RAVON and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.
Aside from establishing a reserve population by the experienced, renowned zoos in Rotterdam, Jersey and Vienna, the experience will be used to set up a breeding programme in St. Eustatius. It is for that reason that St. Eustatius is loaning the animals to Blijdorp Zoo.
The four Statia iguanas and the zoo’s own sole iguana will be housed in the coming years in the new nature preservation centre that is currently being constructed with financial aid of Friends of Blijdorp. The intention is to bring several of the animals to the other two zoos to create further offspring with another partner.
Blijdorp Zoo is hopeful that the four iguanas from St. Eustatius and its own specimen will create sufficient offspring. “Healthy iguanas can lay 20 to 40 eggs, and if they all hatch then we are well on our way,” said spokesman Mark de Boer.
Blijdorp Zoo can’t say whether the four iguanas in question will ever return to St. Eustatius. But the plan is to have the offspring play a role in preserving the species in St. Eustatius, it was stated in a press release.
Bron: Daily Herald