We heard the wildest theories about giant iguanas that attack tourists while they are sunbathing and thought we gonna tell you the truth about it.
Well let me tell you, there are much wilder creatures on our beaches, but they ain’t Iguanas!
Why does Outback Adventures have Iguanas if they are endangered?
When you visit our ranch in Puerto Plata or Punta Cana with one of our many countryside tours like theOutback Safariyou will come along our small Iguana Sanctuaries. We build them to help preserve and successfully breed these endangered animals called Rhino Iguanas working together with the wild life protection of the Dominican Republic ( Medio Ambiente), the zoological garden in Santo Domingo and international experts with many years of experience with wild and exotic animals.
Research with international interest in conservation and protection of endangered Rock Iguanas
We have been recognized by Stesha Pasachnik ,Co-Chair IUCN SSC Iguana Specialist Group, Post-Doctoral Research Associate that is working in the Institute for Conservation Research in San Diego Zoo Global and Rosanna Carreras De León from the Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo back in 2014 as a great example of a presentable medium size Iguana center in Dominican Republic.
We earned this recognition for creating excellent living conditions for these animals in captivity and we have become an important members of a work shop that is held annually to work on a programs to stabilize the population of the Cyclura Cornuta cornuta (scientific name of Rock Iguana) in the area.
Since then we were ask to participate in different work shops together with members of Santo Domingos Zoo, Grupo Punta Cana Ecological Center and many more international experts to exchange ideas and experience about the wild life conservation, the protection of the habitat and education of the communities and behavioral studies.
Let me tell you more about this fantastic creatures!
This species than can be found ONLY here on the island and is called Rhino Iguana- Cyclura cornuta cornuta. Several sub species with a small diversity in size, color or scale size can be found in the Dominican Republic due geographical barriers like the mountains range called cordillera oriental or cordrillera central.
Iguanas from Puerto Plata have slightly larger scales and tent to be more of a bluer color due the habitat the live in.
Cyclura cornuta is found ONLY on the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean Sea (Hamlett 2002). A closely related species or subspecies was found on Navassa Island, but is now believed extinct. There is a living subspecies on Mona Island, near Puerto Rico, that is closely observed by wild life specialist.
The Dominican Republic faces multiple threats to biodiversity.
A list of native species of amphibians and reptiles (excluding sea turtles) that are endangered or vulnerable is presented. Some may have become extinct recently, substantial populations of others have been extirpated, some have greatly reduced numbers, and others appear to be rare or have restricted ranges.
Most of the 13 taxa listed are relatively large, vulnerable to human exploitation or introduced predators, and/or have limited distributions and specific habitat requirements.
To be listed, evidence must exist that:
• populations are diminishing
• the range is shrinking
• a species must be vulnerable to exploitation and historically rare
Two iguanas (Cyclura cornuta, C. ricordii), two turtles (Trachemys decorata, T. stejnegeri vicina), and one crocodilian (Crocodylus acutus) have been exploited extensively and have long been recognized as threatened or endangered.
When your big brother looks just like you:
The skin of our Iguanas have rough epidermal scales and is grayish brown or olive in color. The species is definitively known for the large size of certain scales on the head, but few other iguana species are as large or have the “horns” (actually enlarged scales) on their heads.These horns are the source for the name for of the species, as they look with a little bit of fantasy like Rhinos, don’t you agree?
Fun fact: Film makers took actually inspiration from the Iguanas to create the well known character of Godzilla. If you get really close you can see it…But be aware!
The skin color allows the Rock Iguanas to blend in with its environment. This species also exhibits behaviors which are thought to deter predators as well as competitors, these include elaborate head and neck movements intended to make the lizard look larger and fiercer. These defenses don’t work very well against introduced predators.
This species will bite or scratch and strike with its tail if provoked or attacked, but is otherwise harmless and in no way detrimental to humans.
Are Iguanas mating for life?
Evidence for a polygynous mating system with social rank determining mating has been published. This corresponds to the fact that the male Iguana appears to be extremely territorial and especially will attempt to dominate and intimidate con-specifics with head movements and body gyrations. It looks actually like little bull that want to impress the ladies…Que lo que?
They use similar motions to attract females, and may also use these head bobs and nods to scare away predators.
So do they lay eggs like the chicken?
The beginning of the mating season is late May, and C. cornuta is oviparous, means that eggs are laid about 40 days after mating, usually in early August. In our studies it shows that animals in captivity lay eggs as early as July and hatching has been monitored end September or beginning of October.
Females dig burrows up to a meter and a half long in which to incubate the eggs and must keep them at a minimum of 30 degrees Celsius. The eggs are softer than chicken eggs and have a leather like shell and are the size of a goose egg but more oval shaped.
The temperature of the nest will determine later if more females or males hatch
Clutch size is extremely variable and may range from 5 to 20 eggs. Resource competition and/ or abundance of predators is thought to account for variations in egg-laying behavior(Hunsaker II, et al. 1969).
Here on Iguana Ranch in Punta Cana we extract cautiously all eggs and incubate them carefully in specially prepared boxes filled with nesting material and place them in an incubator room with temperature and humidity control. Daily observation and monitoring are key to successful hatching. In the past two years a total of 30 baby iguanas have hatched and have been raised and introduced to the juvenile and adult enclosure.
that is actually me, very proud with our first iguana hatchlings
Is it true that they live longer in captivity?
Very little has been published regarding the longevity of this species because it is difficult to monitor in the wild. A life of 20 years in captivity is reported due special care and control of nutrition and parasites (Hamlett 2002), and some researchers predict even that these animals may live decades longer than the one in the wild (Kaplan 2002, citing Blair).
When doing nothing is just the right thing to do!
Like all Iguanas, C. cornuta are behavioral heliotherms. This means that they must adjust their activity patterns to utilize solar radiation so as to regulate their body temperature. You can see them in the early hours of the day heating them self-up sunbathing on rocks and old tree locks.
It also means that there are some obvious habitat restrictions for this animal–it can only survive in tropical or sub-tropical climates in the wild.
So they have teeth, are they carnivorous?
Rhinoceros iguanas are mainly herbivores, eating a wide variety of leaves, fruits, flowers, and seeds. They occasionally eat proteins, mainly insects, land crabs, or snails, sometimes dead birds and fish. This behavior an be observed mainly in females when they are in breeding season and have a greater need of proteins.
Young iguanas in particular may take insects and other small animals as they need to grow fast. Here in Iguana Ranch they get fed meal worms and cockroaches. Iguanas that locate a food source (e.g. a fruiting bush) will actively defend it from con-specifics (Animal Network).
Why are the Rock iguanas so important to the Dominican Republic? What is their role in the Ecosystem?
Cyclura cornuta has been documented to feed on fruits. Because most seeds are difficult to digest without special bacteria, they often remain intact and end up in the animal’s feces. This helps to both spread the seed and to fertilize it.
So what is it that Outback Adventures is doing to preserve this species?
We are very proud to be invited to the yearly work shops to exchange ideas and knowledge about successful breeding, new studies on behavior and field work in order to preserve this important animals and reestablish a healthy number in the wild so that this Iguanas are no longer endangered.
We invite scientist to our ranch to complete field studies such as measuring and weighing our animals, chipping them so they can be dragged down later in the wild and preparing for each animal a record for breeding purpose, nutritional monitoring, parasite control and behavior studies, so that these information can be compared with studies in the wild.
The idea is to create an open dialog platform where other facilities can share their experience and problems in order to give support and advise.We invite school groups and local communities to visit our ranch and teach them about this animals and what THEY can do to help preserve them and give other animal parks a chance to learn from our experience.
Special Thanks for all the detailed information to John Egnatios-Beene (autor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Kerry Yurewicz (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
“Terrestrial Ecoregions- – Hispaniolan dry forests” (On-line). Accessed March 5, 2002 at http://www.nationalgeographic.com/wildworld/profiles/terrestrial/nt/nt0215.html.
Fink, W., A. Kluge. August, 2001. Chordates: Their Anatomy, Ontogeny, and Phylogeny. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan.
Hamlett, L. “Rhinoceros Iguana” (On-line). Accessed 9 October 2002 at http://www.nashvillezoo.org/riguana.htm.
Hunsaker II, D., B. Burrage. April 1969. The significance of interspecific social dominance in Iguanid lizards. American Midland Naturalist, 81( 2): 500-511.
International Reptile Conservation Foundation, “Cyclura.com” (On-line). Accessed 9 October 2002 at http://www.cyclura.com.