I was recently on the island of Grand Cayman. This island located south of Cuba has its own native rock iguana, the blue iguana, (Cyclura lewisi). Unfortunately, the invasive green iguana (Iguana iguana) was introduced by humans and their population exploded. In 2018, the estimated green iguana population was about 1.3 million on the 76 square miles of the island. That’s about 18,000 per square mile!
The Cayman Island Department of the Environment initiated a culling program, paying $5 for every green iguana caught and turned in to the DoE. In September 2019, the DoE reported that 925,000 had been removed from the environment.
Last year, when I visited Grand Cayman, greens were everywhere. So I was thrilled this year that I only saw one. The young green was hanging out in the parking lot of the hotel. Despite my affection for green iguanas, they don’t belong in the Cayman Islands and need to be removed. It’s unfortunate that we humans introduced them in the first place. Now, this is the only way to save the native ecology.
Keep up the good work, Caymanians.
If you’re interested in learning the differences between the native rock iguanas and green iguanas, Lyric Power Publishing produced booklets to help the people of the Cayman Islands differentiate the lizards. Contact Elaine Powers at email@example.com to make arrangements to receive some copies.
And, if you’d like to learn more about these fascinating reptiles, click on the workbook below, My Unit Study on Iguanas. It has all kinds of information on iguanas, and pages to Label the Parts, Cut and Paste, True or False, Compare Traits, Cut and Classify, Mean, Mode & Median, and much more! It’s a veritable workbook delight! To see all of our comprehensive, educational, and fun workbooks, go to LPP Workbooks.
Math was not my favorite, nor my best, topic, but I did like the math used to solve real-world problems. I enjoyed using geometry to determine how tall a tree is. Discovering the unknown variables in algebra fascinated me; it was like a secret code that had to be deciphered. I eventually came to understand how to use statistics and calculus in measuring aspects of ecosystems and in animal behavior. It turned out that I did like math–if it applied to my interests in science!
When master educator Marilyn Buehrer designed the Lyric Power Publishing workbooks and activity sheets based on my children’s storybooks, I was thrilled that she included some of my favorite animals in her math problems. I particularly like the one where she has the students measure the iguanas to determine average and median sizes in the workbook My Unit Study on Iguanas. I could use that in my citizen scientist work out in the field with the rock iguanas of Cayman Brac!
If you’re curious at all about the Sister Isle Rock Iguanas on Cayman Brac, check out my poignant book, Silent Rocks, pictured above. The population of Cyclura nubila caymanensis on Cayman Brac is in serious decline and these vegetarian lizards are an important part of the island’s ecosystem. Their reduction is the result of human activity on their habitat, and the threats can only be eliminated by human action. I am hopeful the people of Cayman Brac will turn this sad situation around.
In The Dragon of Nani Cave, the Lime Lizard Lads, curly-tail lizards of Cayman Brac, seek an adventure up on the bluff. Their goal is to reach Nani Cave and meet the dragon that lives there. (The dragon is a Rock Iguana, but when you’re a small lizard, an iguana is a dragon!) Gene and Bony soon realize how big and how dangerous the world beyond their beach really is. Leaving home is easy, but what if they do find the dragon? And how will the lads make it back?
For educators and homeschooling parents, LPP offers a 30-page coordinating workbook designed for grades 3-6. Fourteen pages are taken directly from The Dragon of Nani Cave, with 14 pages of corresponding questions. Teachers and parents read the book aloud to students, then hand out the reading and question pages. Students reread pages from the book and answer the questions for each page; they also color in the black and white pictures on every page.
If you have any interest in the identification booklets that LPP has published on how to tell the differences between the invasive green iguanas and the native rock iguanas, please contact Elaine Powers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My writing career started after meeting Curtis Curly-tail lizard in the Bahamas, a very special country off of Florida. It is a nation of islands at the mercy of Atlantic hurricanes.
The official definition of hurricane is: A rapidly rotating storm that has a low pressure center or eye, a low level spiraling thunderstorm, and very strong winds with heavy rains. The warm waters that I enjoy swimming in so much provide the energy for these storms, which are categorized by the speed of their winds, using the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. A Category One hurricane has winds of 74-95 mph; Two 96-110 mph; Three 111-129 mph; Four 130-156 mph, and Five 157 mph and higher.
I love the Bahamas and am still writing books based there. I was on Grand Bahamas (which was devastated by Dorian with 185 mph winds for nearly two days) in March 2019 to do research. I spent many wonderful hours at the Bahamas National Trust’s Rand Nature Center and the Lucayan National Park. It will be a while before we learn what remains.
My next Curtis Curly-tail book is about the danger to the iguana populations on the Bahamian islands. Storm surges easily cover these low-lying places. But the danger to the people of the Bahamas is just as real, as seen when Hurricane Dorian hit early this month. As of this writing, 43 people are known dead and over 70,000 Bahamians are homeless.
Sadly, along with two feet of rain, Dorian generated a storm surge 23 feet high. I fear the loss of life of these beautiful people, the amazing animals and the native plants will be immense and it will take many years for this lovely island to recover.
What do you think of when you hear the name Tabby? Do you think of tabby cats? Those domestic cats that have distinctive stripes, spots, or swirls on their coats.
Or maybe you have a friend named Tabitha and she’s called Tabby for short.
One of the new characters in my books with Bahamian wildlife themes is named Tabby. Scott Johnson, her creator, named her that, so it isn’t my fault.
I showed a friend in Nassau my new book “Tabby and Cleo: Unexpected Friends.” She looked at the cover and her expression was not what I expected. She’s liked my books in the past, but her face communicated dismay and concern. She tentatively opened the cover and turned a few pages.
A smile erupted and she exclaimed, “Tabebuia! Of course!” She noted my confused expression and explained. “When I read Tabby, I thought of tabby cats and I didn’t want to read a story about cats. How delightful that Tabby is a Five Finger Fairy.”
To be honest, I never once thought of tabby cats when I wrote the story. Hopefully, soon everyone will know of Tabby, the Five Finger Fairy, from the Bahamas. She was introduced in the adventure tale, “Tabby and Cleo: Unexpected Friends.”
Cleo, a Bahamian boa, one of the most misunderstood animals of The Bahamas, rescues Tabby, a Five-Finger Fairy. In trying to find Cleo a safe place to live, this unlikely pair help each other and the people they meet. Tabby loves Bahamian wildlife, Bahamian bush teas, and making friends with both animals and humans alike. This book focuses on important conservation issues that threaten Bahamian wildlife, such as wildlife smuggling, habitat loss, invasive species and human intolerance of animals such as snakes and spiders.
Tabby will also be introducing the land animals of the Bahamas in a series of picture books, filled with scientific information, called the Tabby Tales. The first Tabby Tale is about Bahamian boas, about the fascinating boa constrictors native to the islands.
Governmental and civil organizations (1300 altogether!) work to enhance economic development and nature conservation—the two aren’t mutually exclusive. The IUCN provides a neutral forum for member organizations to be heard, and members vote democratically on resolutions concerning global conservation initiatives. Thousands of experts are involved in their important work, and author Elaine A. Powers is part of the Iguana Specialist Group of the IUCN. Many iguana species are among the most endangered animals and this group looks after the big lizards.
“Influence, encourage and assist
societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of
nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and
You might have heard of CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Animals whose existence is threatened are listed in the IUCN Red List.Information can be found on those animals, including how endangered the species is and why. Is it threatened or nearly extinct? The IUCN works to see the populations of these animals recover so they can be removed from the Red List.
Iguanas are important for ecosystem health due to their role as seed dispersers for many native plants. These large lizards are threatened by habitat degradation, by human development and the introduction of invasive species. In addition, iguanas are hunted for human use.
The ISG recommends and enacts immediate and effective measures to conserve iguanas globally. The IUCN is a wonderful example of countries around the world working together for conservation.
I’ve written and recorded a song about iguanas. Read on to learn why my songwriting career has taken this reptilian turn.
My friend Elaine Powers is an author and biologist who lives and works with reptiles. Her pets include iguanas, tortoises, tegu lizards, and a turtle. She currently is actively involved in saving endangered iguanas in the Caribbean.
As Elaine explained to me recently, rock iguanas and spiny-tail iguanas living in Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and other islands have become endangered due to habitat loss and introduced (non-native) predators. Spiny-tails are sometimes consumed by humans. The Statia iguanas on St. Eustatius Island are threatened by hybridization with the non-native green iguana. Some iguanas, while warming themselves on asphalt highways, get run over by cars, either accidentally or for sport. And then there’s poaching for the pet trade. Elaine’s group is trying to educate the public about the importance of native iguanas to the local ecosystem.
After hearing about the plight of the iguanas, I decided to write a song about them. Elaine had the song animated by Anderson Atlas, and she posted it on her YouTube channel.
To see and hear the video, click the following link:
There’s even an iguana joke at the end of the song.
I’m hoping the song catches on in the Caribbean. Do they have some version of a Grammy there? Maybe a Caribby? I’d settle for a paid vacation. But the real prize would be helping the iguanas to survive and thrive on their native island homes.
I’d love to hear your comments, and sharing is always appreciated!
The Cayman Islands are a system of three islands located south of Cuba: Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. Two kinds of iguanas are found there. The most famous is the Blue Iguana found on Grand Cayman, Cyclura lewisi. Their body color is really the most amazing sky blue. They were almost lost to extinction, but some hardworking humans created the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme and their numbers are climbing. This doesn’t mean they are out of danger, but it is a step in the right direction, as they say. You should visit the Blues at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park if you’re ever on Grand Cayman.
I am more interested in the lesser known Sister Island Rock Iguanas (SIRI), Cyclura nubila caymanensis. I’ve been privileged to work as a citizen scientist for their conservation. 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. They are endemic to only the Sister Islands.
Little Cayman has a fairly large population of iguanas, but Cayman Brac’s iguanas are having a tough time surviving. Along with the usual human-caused problems, 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.
My friend Bonnie Scott Edwards, who lives on the Brac, asked me to help her spread the word about the iguanas being needlessly killed. I’m always willing to help with causes like this. She had some terrific photos of iguanas both living and dead – I prefer the live ones myself. Then my friend, Anderson, who does great drawings for my books, filled in the blanks with his illustrations for my book, Silent Rocks. The book turned out great and I hope it helps not only to educate people but also tugs at their consciences. Every time an iguana is senselessly killed, a part of the future dies.
Some people wonder about the value of the iguanas. Did you know that many plants require the help of the iguanas to germinate and grow? 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. They go up the bluff, then down the bluff, then up the bluff, then down– well, you get the idea.
However, not just any iguana will do. Many areas have introduced the Green Iguana, Iguana iguana, into rock iguana territories. Some research suggests that seeds passing through the Green’s gut does not help the plants in rock iguana territories. Only the correct iguana will do. This makes sense, since many of the plants evolved along with the iguanas. More studies are being done.
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 even stop texting. Bonnie also tells 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. It is 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, are the poisons. Some rat poisons are the same color as 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 do succeed. Like the blue iguanas on Grand Cayman, the Brac rock iguanas can be brought back from the brink of extinction.
I wrote a book about this important issue. It’s called Silent Rocks. Bonnie’s photos of the iguanas of Cayman Brac are wonderful.
Most iguanas are found in the Americas and on Caribbean islands. They are grouped into three types: iguanas like the common green iguana, rock iguanas and spiny-tail iguanas. Each has evolved to thrive in their native environment. Unfortunately, through international commerce, the green iguana, Iguana iguana, has been introduced into ecosystems where they don’t belong.
Have you ever wondered how to tell iguanas apart? Being able to accurately identify iguana species is important to telling the difference between native iguanas and the invasive green iguanas. I have nothing against green iguanas. I’ve known many through the years as pets and when I operated an iguana rescue. Unfortunately, they are damaging the ecosystems and out-competing the native species.
Green iguanas live in an environment with many predators. So, greens lay many eggs and adapt to many foods. They have that in common with rock iguanas, who are also opportunistic eaters. (Sadly, they’ll even eat human food.)
But back to the telling iguanas apart. There are now booklets that show the physical differences. Rock iguanas don’t have the gorgeous subtympanic scale–that’s the big scale under the ear–that the green iguanas have. My mother called it the ‘jewel.’ It is lovely, in many pretty colors. No other iguanas have that scale. Greens also have little points on their dewlaps. A dewlap is the piece of skin under the chin. ( Oooh, that rhymes.) The greens have smooth, striped tails. Other iguanas have less striped tails. Rock iguanas have that nice ribbing along the tail, while spiny-tails have keeled scales on their tail giving them a rough appearance.
I wanted to produce an item that would aid people in correctly identifying iguanas, something that was convenient to carry and interesting to look at. I was asked to make the text rhyme because this helps in memorizing the facts. Anderson Atlas, John Binns and I have prepared these conveniently-sized booklets that people can carry around with them. Check them out –they’re free at ElaineAPowers.com.
CURTIS CURLY-TAIL COMES ALIVE ON YOU TUBE!
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