On Monday, the discovery of a pregnant invasive Green Iguana at Cantonment, Vieux Fort, has renewed concern at the Forestry Department that the population of the reptile locally is getting out of control.
The department is concerned about the threat to the survival of the endemic Saint Lucia iguana since crossbreeding between the two species will result in ‘hybridisation’, eventually wiping out the local species, the scientific name of which is Iguana Sanctaluciae.
The Saint Lucia iguana has been here from time immemorial, typically along the North East Coast, including Dennery.
However, the Forestry Department says that smugglers brought the Green or American iguana to Soufriere as pets in the past few years.
The reptiles escaped into the wild and began breeding out of control.
But the situation got worse.
Senior Wildlife Protection Officer Pius Haynes told St Lucia Times that recently, someone translocated the invasive iguana to the Cantonment area of Vieux Fort as pets.
The creatures escaped and began to breed in the wild.
“The same problem we had in Soufriere for years we are now getting these problems in the Vieux Fort area,” Haynes observed.
He explained that the areas in question are Augier, Cantonment, Black Bay, and along the St Jude Highway.
“We can see the implications there. They are already breeding in the wild,multiplying in the Vieux Fort area and that poses a big threat to the conservation of our very own local iguana. There’s a threat of hybridisation if the two iguanas crossbreed and we do not want that to happen,” the Senior Wildlife Officer told St Lucia Times, explaining that the iguana mating season is between February and May.
As a result, the Forestry Department wants Vieux Fort and Soufriere residents to report iguana sightings.
In this way, officials of the department who can distinguish between the invasive and local species can implement measures to control the former population.
Haynes revealed that the two species would be competing for space and food aside from crossbreeding.
According to the Forestry Department official, the invasive Green Iguana reproduces at a prolific rate and has already created a problem in other places like Puerto Rico, Saba, and Anguilla, where people have introduced it.
“We do not want a case where the invasive Green iguana establishes itself all over Saint Lucia. That would not be good at all for endemic conversation,” Haynes stated.
Headline photo: Saint Lucia iguana