A Plea for help from Rick Hudson, Executive Director of the International Iguana Foundation

Background

Dr. Byron Wilson at the release of the 200th headstarted Jamaican Iguana into the Hellshire Hills.
Dr. Byron Wilson at the release of the 200th headstarted Jamaican Iguana into the Hellshire Hills.

For the past twenty years the Jamaican Iguana has fought back from the brink of extinction and made a remarkable recovery, becoming one of the world’s best known conservation success stories. Supported largely by the International Iguana Foundation (IIF), and fueled with funding by zoos, private donors, and foundations, the Jamaican Iguana Recovery Program has managed to return this iconic species to flagship status, as the largest native land animal in Jamaica.  This remarkable story played out in the remote reaches of the Hellshire Hills, an ancient tropical dry forest ecosystem that is the Jamaican Iguana’s only remaining habitat.

The Crisis

The last remaining habitat of the Jamaican Iguana - the Hellshire Hills in the Portland Bight Protected Area. Photo by Rick Van Veen
The last remaining habitat of the Jamaican Iguana - the Hellshire Hills in the Portland Bight Protected Area soon to be part of a Chinese port. Photo by Rick Van Veen

However this charismatic lizard, that so many of us have dedicated so much of our lives to saving, could  soon vanish, erasing countless hours of work and sweat, and millions of dollars in funding. There is a real possibility that a Chinese investment in a trans-shipment port on the nearby offshore Goat Islands will result in the destruction of this critical habitat.  Details have been scarce on the project but indications are that there will be dredging through reefs, removal of sea grass beds and mangroves, completely flattening the islands and encroaching on the Hellshire Hills.  This plan – undeniably - will lead to the complete ecological devastation of  this “protected” area, both marine and terrestrial habitats  – including the Hellshire Hills - and likely most of the endemic plants and threatened species that depend on this forest for survival.

Help IIF Respond

While we will continue to “fight the good fight” and strenuously oppose this highly controversial development, we must be prepared to move on in the event that the Port goes through.  If this happens, we will be forced to radically shift our conservation strategy and search for alternative suitable habitat where the iguana can survive.  And we must bolster captive breeding efforts.  This will require a substantial amount of capital, but we have simply come too far to give up.  We will ensure a future for the Jamaican iguana but we will need your help to keep that promise.

Help us bring this travesty to the world’s attention in a final effort to convince the Jamaican Prime Minister that the Chinese super-port must not be built in this critical habitat.   And PLEASE help the IIF to be prepared to respond by making a donation today.