Rainforest Trust and local partner The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds-Cayman Islands Nature Limited (RSPB-CINL) purchased 9.5 acres in Grand Cayman to safeguard habitat for the Endangered Grand Cayman Blue Iguana. The partners will be leasing the land to the National Trust for the Cayman Islands (NTCI) for management in perpetuity. This property expands NTCI’s existing 646.6 acre Salina Reserve, a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA).
Grand Cayman, the largest of the Cayman Islands, serves as the sole Grand Cayman Blue Iguana habitat. Researchers estimate the species’ total population at 443 adults, and the Salinas Reserve has part of that. But the partner expects their ongoing conservation efforts will increase this number.
The new protected area is one of many release sites for NCTI’s Blue Iguana Recovery Programme. This initiative breeds and head-starts individuals for release into the wild. The program allows experts to research and monitor the species to ensure their long-term survival and population sustainability.
This new protected land will buffer the reserve from development pressure and other threats like road construction and housing developments. Development destroys Grand Cayman Blue Iguana habitat and increases contact with predators such as feral cats and competitors such as the invasive Common Green Iguana. Because of the spatial nature of these threats, this new protected area is the most effective conservation solution.
The island’s biodiverse dry forest habitat is home to many globally threatened endemic trees such as the Endangered Ironwood. Ironwoods are some of the island’s key forest canopy trees and a source of fruit for the iguana. The reserve has several other notable botanical residents, including the Critically Endangered Grand Cayman False Foxglove and the Endangered Corato and Cayman Thatch Palm. A system of cave habitats for bats and other endemic cave fauna also runs through the Salina Reserve.
“The expansion of the Salinas Reserve will be pivotal to the recovery of this species and the long-term protection of the unique environment of the Cayman Islands,” said Angela Yang, Rainforest Trust Chief Conservation Officer.
The site is almost completely undisturbed by neighboring human communities. This isolation, combined with the area’s habitat diversity, means the reserve safeguards a high proportion of Grand Cayman’s biodiversity. In future years, the new land will be a gateway to a larger-scale land acquisition within the Salina Reserve to further safeguard the island’s unique species. NTCI will incorporate the new land into the reserve and manage it. The partners’ dedicated, combined efforts will ensure conservation success for the Grand Cayman Blue Iguana and other endangered species that call the island home.
This project was made possible through gifts to the Conservation Action Fund and the SAVES Challenge.
Header image: Grand Cayman Blue Iguana. Photo by H. Michael Miley.