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Belfast Zoo celebrate conservation success following birth of three Utila iguanas

Belfast Zoo is celebrating another conservation success, as three Utila iguanas hatched on July 6 and can now be seen in the reptile and amphibian house
Marie Louise McConville

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".

The future of the Utila iguana is hanging in the balance. It is estimated that there could be fewer than 5000 left in the wild with populations decreasing

The Utila iguana is named after its tropical island home of Utila, which is located in the Caribbean

The babies only measure about 15 centimetres at the moment but, when fully grown, these reptiles will measure up to 60 centimetres

The Utila iguanas can now be seen in Belfast Zoo's new reptile and amphibian house

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