Bringing Back the Blue Iguana
Bringing Back the Blue Iguana
IGUANAS AT RISK
Iguanas are one of the most endangered species. Their protection is vital for the health of the ecosystem as iguanas are important seed dispensers for native plants. Many of the world’s iguanas are Endangered (EN), Critically Endangered (CR), or Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List. The Navassa rhinoceros iguana was declared Extinct (EX) in 2011. In 2004, the blue iguana was listed as Critically Endangered (CR), but in 2012 this was upgraded to Endangered (EN).
The addition of four new titles to Crabtree’s “Animals Back from the Brink” series brings the total number of books in the series to 14. Like most Crabtree series, these books are structured around two-page chapters which contain brief blocks of text accompanied by numerous full-colour captioned photographs. Each book begins with an introduction to the animal species that is risk and why it is in this state. The content of books’ second chapter, “Species at Risk”, is essentially common to all, and, in it, the authors introduce the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which, since 1964, “publishes the Red List of Threatened Species each year, which tells people how likely a plant or animal species is to become extinct.” These pages also identify the criteria the scientists use in determining where to place some 80,000 species of plants and animals on the Red list’s nine point scale that ranges from “Not Evaluated (N E) Not yet evaluated against the criteria” to “Extinct (EX) No living individuals survive.” The chapters which follow identify the specific threats to the survival of the book’s animal as well as the people and/or organizations that identified the species’ survival problem and how they went about rectifying the situation in order to bring the animal back from the brink of extinction. Three of the four books include two maps, one showing the endangered animal’s historic range and the other where the animal can presently be found. Because the island foxes’ past and present ranges are the same, Bringing Back the Island Fox only has a single map.
The blue iguana, unique to Grand Cayman Island, once numbered in the thousands, but, by 2002, there were less than 20 living in the wild, and “[a] survey that year declared the blue iguana to be functionally extinct in the wild.” As explained in Bringing Back the Blue Iguana, prior to human settlers arriving on the island, only the Cayman Racer, a snake, preyed on the blue iguana’s eggs and hatchlings. The settlers’ land use forced the iguanas to move inland from their natural coastal habitat. As well, humans introduced both new predators – dogs, cats and rats – but also an invasive species – green iguanas – that not only competed for food with the blue iguanas but could also out-reproduce them. A captive breeding program, coupled with the establishment of two protected reserve areas, has seen the IUCN downgrade the blue iguana’s status from Critically Endangered (CR) to Endangered (EN).
All four books end with the same six closing sections: “What Does the Future Hold?” (Called “Looking to the Future” in the blue iguana book), “Saving Other Species”, “What Can You Do to Help?”, “Learning More” (which lists four books and four-six briefly annotated websites), a “Glossary” of words bolded in the text, and a one-page “Index”.
Bringing Back the Blue Iguana would be a worthwhile addition to school and public libraries’ endangered species collections.
Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.