The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) maintains the well-known Red List of Threatened Species. While some kinds of iguanas are not endangered, there are several types of iguanas currently on the Red List, in various levels of endangerment.
According to the IUCN’s Iguana Specialist Group, the iguana is one of the world’s most endangered animals.
How can a popular pet like the iguana be endangered in the wild? There are many reasons why, and unfortunately, the fact that they are such a popular exotic pet is one of several reasons.
What should iguana fans know about the threat to iguanas—and their habitats? Let’s look at iguanas and why some of them are endangered.
How many species of iguanas are there?
The Iguana Specialist Group reports that there are 45 living (and 1 extinct) iguana species.
Most species of iguana live in South America, Mesoamerica, and the Caribbean. But iguanas can also be found in other places like North America, Africa, and the South Pacific.
The common green iguana is the type that is often seen as a pet. There are also species of rock, tree, spiny-tailed, and desert iguanas. The chuckwalla is a type of iguana found in America’s desert southwest and Mexico.
Some iguanas are more famous than others, like the marine iguanas of the Galapagos Islands and the dramatically colored Grand Cayman blue iguana.
Which iguanas are endangered?
There are several categories of endangerment on the IUCN Red List. They range from species of least concern to near threatened, vulnerable, endangered, critically endangered, and extinct.
Around 10% of the world’s iguana population is listed as endangered and about 4.5% is critically endangered.
Some of the most critically endangered iguanas live in very small geographic areas. The Jamaican iguana, for example, lives in a small area on the southern coast of Jamaica. Only 100-200 adults are remaining.
Another critically endangered iguana is the Anegada rock iguana. There are only an estimated 340-440 individuals on the island of Anegada in the British Virgin Islands.
Even some of the most well-known iguanas are listed as endangered or vulnerable, including the land and marine iguanas that Charles Darwin found on the Galapagos Islands, and the impressive Grand Cayman blue iguana.
Why are iguanas endangered?
Not all iguana species are endangered but there are several reasons why some iguanas are listed as vulnerable or endangered species.
The biggest threat facing iguanas is the loss of habitat. Much of this habitat loss is due to human activities that encroach on the areas where they live, which are sometimes very small, to begin with.
Many iguanas are also threatened by hunting and trapping for the exotic pet trade. They are also being negatively affected by invasive species and climate change.
Are pet iguanas endangered?
Chances are your pet iguana is one of the more common iguana species that’s not endangered.
Escaped pet green iguanas have even become a nuisance in Florida because they have been breeding in very large numbers and are destructive to the environment.
But some endangered iguanas are harmed by the illegal exotic pet trade.
Conservationists report that spiny-tailed iguanas are becoming more popular as pets and are being poached more frequently. This is bad news for endangered spiny-tailed iguanas like the Roatan spiny-tailed iguana, found only on the small Honduran island of Roatan.
The most important thing you can do to help save endangered iguanas is to never buy an endangered one as a pet. If you see an endangered iguana offered for sale, you can report it to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
If you are looking for a pet iguana, choose a common iguana species from a reputable reptile seller. Responsible sellers will offer captive-bred iguanas. Be wary of high-priced exotics sold online.
Next on your reading list:
Featured Image Credit: Pixel2013, Pixabay