Critically endangered iguanas hatch at Bristol Zoo Gardens

A critically endangered species of iguana has bred at Bristol Zoo Gardens for the first time in seven years.

Two Utila spiny-tailed iguanas hatched after being incubated for 74 days in a baby incubator which was donated to the Zoo by Southmead Hospital in December, after it went out of service.

The pair are now four-weeks-old and thriving. They are currently being cared for behind-the-scenes in the Zoo’s reptile house until later in June when they will go on display in our amphibian and baby reptile display area.

It is the first time the species has bred successfully at the Zoo since 2011. The species is listed as critically endangered and once considered to be one of the rarest iguanas in existence.

 The young, which are around 20cm long, hatch from 3cm eggs and grow up to 80cm long on a diet of vegetation and small insects. 

Tim Skelton, curator of reptiles at Bristol Zoo, said: “It’s great to have bred these rare iguanas – it is an interesting and very valuable species because they are only found on one island, Utila, off the coast of Honduras in Central America.”

The Utila spiny-tailed iguana is so-named after the single island it inhabits and the whorls of enlarged spiny scales that encircle the tail.

The tiny distribution of the Utila spiny-tailed iguana makes it incredibly vulnerable to any threats. Currently, those threats are habitat loss and hunting. As tourism on the island of Utila increases, the mangrove forest habitat of the spiny-tailed iguana is being cleared to make way for houses and marinas.

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, are grey-brown.


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