Trip to Cayman Brac

Whew!  Hello!  I’m back.  Did you miss me? LOL. I do apologize for the tardiness of this entry.  I’ve been traveling and not just aboard boats!  I know I’ve told you about traveling between the cays in the Bahamas but this time I traveled west to the Cayman Islands.  Unlike the Bahamas with its many islands, the Caymans only have a few.  The ones that humans live on are Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.  Brac means bluff and refers to the high bluff in the center of the island.  Little Cayman is so named because it’s the smallest island.  Not very creative, I know.  I’ve told you about my new iguana friend, Allison, in my book, Curtis Curly-tail is Lizardnapped!  She’s an Andros Island iguana, Cyclura cychlura cychlura. Andros is the biggest island in the Bahamas but not many people live there.  With so many islands, the Bahamas have 7 kinds of iguanas.  The Cayman Islands only have 2 types.  The most famous is the Blue Iguana found on Grand Cayman, Cyclura lewisi.  They are really the most amazing sky blue.  They were almost lost to extinction but some hard working humans created the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme and their numbers are starting to climb. This doesn’t mean they are out of danger but it is a skitter in the right direction.  You should visit them at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park if you’re ever on Grand Cayman.

But I was more interested in the less known Sister Island Rock Iguanas (SIRI), Cyclura nubila caymanensis.  They’ve also been called the Lesser Caymans Iguana but there is nothing lesser about them.  They’re said to be a subspecies of the Cuban Rock iguana, Cyclura nubila. Cuba is the big island just a little ways to the north.  The SIRI are endemic to only the Sister Islands.  Little Cayman has a fairly large population but Cayman Brac’s iguanas are having a tough time surviving.  Along with the usual human-caused problems we lizards have to endure, habitat destruction and feral pets, the iguanas on Brac have a high road mortality.  Because the iguanas enjoy the warm smooth roads, they are at risk for being run over by cars.  Sadly, over the last few years many of the local iguanas have died this way.

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My friend Bonnie, asked me to help her spread the word the iguanas being needlessly killed.  You know me, I’m always perfectly willing to help in causes like this.  She had some terrific photos of iguanas both live and dead – I prefer the live ones myself.  Then my friend Anderson, who did some great drawings of me, filled in the blanks.  The book turned out great and I hope it helps not only to educate people but tugs at their conscience.  Every time an iguana is senselessly killed, a part of the future dies.

But there are some people who wonder about the value of the iguanas.  Did you know that many plants, require the help of the iguanas to germinate and grow?  Yes, it’s true. When seeds pass through the iguana after being eaten, they germinate faster.  The iguanas also help with the seed dispersal because it’s hard to make such large active lizards stay in one place.  I’ve heard they go up the bluff then down the bluff then up the bluff then – well, you get the idea.  And it may be that not just any iguana will do.  Many places have introduced the Green Iguana, Iguana iguana, into rock iguanas’ territories.  Some research suggests that passing through the Green’s gut does not help the plants found in the rock iguanas’ territory.  Only the right iguana will do.  This makes sense since many of the plants evolved along with the iguanas.  More studies are being done.

So, I’m helping Bonnie with her mission to save her Brac iguanas.  They’ve put up some signs reminding people that there are iguanas on the road so they’ll slow down and maybe stop texting.  She’s telling them about the dangers of letting their pets run loose.  Iguanas didn’t evolve with large mammalian predators so they don’t know that dogs and cats are dangerous.  They think they are just friends they haven’t met yet.  So sad when they realize their mistake too late.  Then there’s the habitat destruction with the iguanas’ dens being buried during construction.  And lastly poison.  Some of the rat poison is the same color as some of the iguanas’ favorite flowers.  Of course, the rats and mice were introduced by people, too.  So many dangers have come along with people.  But people can also solve these problems and I’m hoping the people on Brac working to help the iguanas succeed.  Like the blue iguanas on Grand Cayman, the Brac rock iguanas can be brought back from the brink of extinction.

If you want to see the book, it is called Silent Rocks.  Bonnie’s photos are wonderful.

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I’m headed home to rest and relax in my perfect den.  Come visit me on Warderick Wells or any of the other Caribbean islands with their magnificent rock iguanas.