Status of a Relocated Population of Endangered Iguana pinguis on Guana Island, British Virgin Islands


The Conservation Agency, Branch Office: 97B Howland Avenue, Jamestown, RI 02835, U.S.A.


Eight individual rock iguanas (Iguana pinguis) from Anegada Island were relocated to Guana Island by Lazell, 1984–1987, in order to establish a second population reservoir for this endangered species. The species may have originally occupied the entire Puerto Rico Bank. The relocation has been successful and, in the area currently providing the best habitat, we estimate a density of 9 or 12 animals of various age classes per 19 ha. The optimal area contains a sheep exclosure with relatively dense understory vegetation and numerous exotic as well as native species of plants. Iguana activity is concentrated on east facing slopes and ridge-tops that get morning sun. Outside the exclosure most edible ground cover and shrubs have been eaten by sheep, leaving toxic or noxious species, such as Croton or Lantana, in the understory where I. pinguis adults generally forage. Removal of sheep may be critical to continued population growth of these reptiles. Views on relocation or repatriation of other endangered Antillean Iguana species are advanced, with some ideas on minimum viable population sizes and a possible explanation for the extirpation of I. pinguis from much of its former range.