Belfast Zoo celebrate conservation success following birth of three Utila iguanas
BELFAST Zoo is celebrating another conservation success after welcoming three Utila iguanas, which hatched last month but can now be seen in the reptile and amphibian house.
Named after their tropical island home of Utila, which is located in the Caribbean, they are unique because they are the only type of spiny-tailed iguana to live in mangrove swamps.
The female cannot lay her eggs in the swamp and she therefore moves to nearby beaches, lays the eggs and buries them in the sand for the sun to incubate them.
Allan Galway, Belfast Zoo Senior Keeper, said: "Reptiles have walked the earth for more than 340 million years, even outliving the dinosaurs, and yet today they are facing ever-increasing threats which are driving them further towards the edge of extinction.
"The Utila iguana, in particular, is critically endangered and was once considered to be one of the rarest iguanas in existence," he said.
"The future of this iguana is currently hanging in the balance as they are under threat from habitat destruction, an increase in tourism and the impact of invasive plants and animals that have been introduced to the island".
He added: "It is estimated that there could be fewer than 5,000 left in the wild with populations continuing to decrease. It is therefore vital that zoos play an active role, by working together collaboratively through the breeding programme, to ensure the long-term survival of the Utila iguana should this worrying trend continue in the wild".