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Utila Spiny-tailed Iguana

Ctenosaura Bakeri

  1. Not Evaluated
  2. Data Deficient
  3. Least Concern
  4. Near Threatened
  5. Vulnerable
  6. Endangered
  7. Critically Endangered
  8. Extinct in the Wild
  9. Extinct

About Us

Woburn is now home to a male Utila Island Spiny-tailed Iguana who joined The Dissscovery Zone from the collection at West Midlands Safari Park. This iguana is one of the most endangered in the world and can only be found in the wild on the island of Utila, which is located just off Honduras.

Utila Spiny-tailed Iguanas vary in colour from light grey to dark grey-brown and they often have an attractive turquoise tinge. This species is protected by Honduran law through a ban on hunting that has been in place since 1994. 

Keepers have named him 'Little Kev' and are hoping to find him a female to contribute to the captive breeding programme.

Distribution
Utila, a small island located just off Honduras.
Habitat
Mangrove forests and forests, but nests on beaches.
Height
Up to 50cm in length.
Gestation Period
65-75 days.
Lifespan
Between 20-25 years in captivity.
Threats
Hunting by humans.

Diet

Utila Spiny-tailed iguanas feed on mangrove plant matter such as leaves and flowers. Adults also eat mangrove crabs, eggs and smaller animals. Juvenile iguanas will hunt for small insects while they're growing.

Physical features

The colour of adult Utila Spiny-tailed iguanas varies from light grey to dark grey-brown, often with an attractive turquoise tinge. All juveniles, however will have grey-brown to black colouring.

Males have a small fold of loose skin hanging below the throat, which is known as the dewlap. Males also have a dorsal crest which is made up of 56 large black and white spines followed by dark, enlarged spiny scales that encircle the tail. 

Breeding behaviour

The mangrove swamps may provide all the shelter and food that the iguanas need to live but to breed they need much more suitable nest sites. Female Utila Spiny-tailed iguanas leave their home trees and migrate to the island's beaches after mating has taken place in the mangroves.

There, they will lay their eggs into self-dug tunnels which are 30-50cm underground, where the temperatures are nearly constant. The five to 20 juveniles per clutch, hatch after about three months and will reach maturity after three to four years. 

Threats and conservation

The Utila Spiny-tailed Iguana is listed as a critically endangered species by the IUCN rest list and the primary treat to this iguana is habitat loss. Mangrove forests habitat is being used as garbage dumping sites and there is abundant deforestation for housing and marina construction.

Beach habitat is being lost due to natural vegetation being removed in preparation for sale of properties and for hotel and road construction. Invasive alien plants are becoming more widespread with development, which is making habitat inappropriate for egg laying. Dogs, cats, and rats are also present on the island and pose a threat to iguanas.

The Utila Spiny-tailed Iguana is protected by Honduran law through a ban on hunting that has been in place since 1994. Actual enforcement of this law is lacking, however in an effort to protect and raise awareness for these iguanas, there are several conservation projects in the country, trying to protect habitat, natural resources and run breeding programs with captive iguanas. Conservation measures include active management and protection of the wild population including using telemetry and mark-recapture techniques to assess the size and structure of the population.

In addition, areas are checked for hunters and evidence of habitat destruction during these surveys. Conservationists also work with developers to choose building sites that preserve as much undisturbed beach as possible so that the iguanas can continue to lay and hatch their eggs successfully.

Fun facts

Spiny-tailed iguanas are one of only two lizard species that live exclusively in mangrove swamps, the other being the Green iguana.

The Utila Spiny-tailed iguana is also known as the Baker’s Spiny-tailed Iguana, Swamper or more locally 'wishiwilly del suampo'.