Hope for iguanas

Published: Monday 15 December 1997

Misguided introduction of the Indian mongoose by farmers in Jamaica over 50 years ago had resulted in decimation of the reptile population in the island. The mongoose had been introduced in an attempt to control the rat population. But they failed to take into account the animals' habits. The mongoose hunts at dawn and dusk, whereas rats are nocturnal. So the mongooses started preying on reptiles, including iguanas, which were believed to have become extinct in Jamaica. But, in 1990, a small population was discovered in the Hellshire Hills near Kingston. A joint project between Fort Worth Zoo, Texas, and Hope Zoo, Kingston, was launched to strengthen the population. The first batch of four six-month-olds raised in the zoos was released in July, 1997. The project is likely to be successful since iguanas -- unlike other species which have to be coached to avoid predators -- do not need any training ( Environment , Vol 39, No 9).

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