I was recently in Guatemala for the 15th annual meeting of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Iguana Specialist Group (ISG). Thank goodness for acronyms! As the name implies, the group is focused on the conservation and preservation of iguanas. These large, herbivorous lizards are found throughout much of the New World’s tropics and subtropics. Many iguana species are threatened with extinction due to hunting (apparently they taste like chicken), habitat loss associated with agriculture and development, introduced predators, road kills, and other human-associated threats.
Part of the meeting included a workshop focused on local iguana species, one of which occurs in Guatemala’s Montagua Valley. After the meeting and workshop, the group took a field trip to this valley to see these iguanas and to visit the conservation-breeding program for one of Guatemala’s other rare and endemic species, the Guatemalan beaded lizard, a close relative of the Gila monster found in the deserts of the American Southwest.
Thanks to the efforts of local conservationists, the future for both the iguanas and beaded lizards of the Montagua Valley is looking brighter.
Glenn Gerber is head of the San Diego Zoo’s Caribbean Regional Program. Read his previous post, Iguanas: Why Move?