Blue iguanas have an extra 10 acres to roam
The Blue Iguana programme is getting a helping hand from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds with the purchase approximately 10 acres of land adjacent to the National Trust’s Salina Reserve in East End.
It is the first time the UK-based group has purchased land in a British Overseas Territory, according to a National Trust of the Cayman Islands media statement on Monday.
The cost of the land was not released, but the National Trust said it was co-funded by the Rainforest Trust and through gifts to the Conservation Action Fund and the SAVES Challenge.
The land will be leased in perpetuity to and protected by the National Trust, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’ in-territory partner.
National Trust Executive Director Nadia Hardie told the Cayman Compass that the Trust has agreed to a peppercorn lease of $1 a year for the land, which she said will be essential in the effort to help save Cayman’s iconic blue iguana.
Hardie said she is proud that the Society has shown “such confidence in the National Trust’s ability and willingness to protect their investment in the Cayman Islands. We look forward to working with them in the coming years on future land preservation across our three islands. The RSPB offers the National Trust great support in a number of ways and we are pleased that they are enthusiastic to help us protect the important and critical biodiversity which exists within our islands”.
The parcel of biodiversity-rich tropical dry forest has been saved from potential damaging development.
“This land will help buffer the reserve from development pressure and other threats, like road and residential construction. Unplanned, ill-considered development, sometimes carried out without legally required approval, destroys Grand Cayman Blue Iguana habitat and increases contact with non-native predators, such as feral cats, and competitors like the invasive Green Iguana,” the media statement added.
The National Trust has set an ambitious target to bring 10% of Cayman’s land area under protection and has been working with the Society since 2014 to find a site.
The Society, according to the media statement, focussed on Cayman for a number of reasons, including that “it is an important habitat for biodiversity with very high levels of endemism and supporting several globally threatened species; a low proportion of this habitat is protected and sites are under threat without effective legal or policy protection”.
Additionally, it added, Cayman has legislation that allows the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds to purchase land.
The new protected area provides a boost to the Trust’s Blue Iguana Recovery Program which recently benefitted from grants from the Disney Conservation Fund and Darwin Plus Initiative.