The Kula Eco-Park is leading an international initiative to captive breed the Monuriki Iguana so that it can be re-introduced to its island.
2014 sees a bumper crop of eggs laid by the Monuriki Crested Iguanas at the Kula Eco-Park.
Unlike the highly invasive American Iguana now establishing itself in the north of Fiji, which can lay a 100 or more eggs at a time, the Monuriki Iguana is unlikely to lay more than 2.
This distinctive form of the Crested Iguana was heading for extinction until a cooperative effort by international and national conservation organizations with the active support of the landowners initiated a captive breeding programme at the Kula Eco-Park.
Under the professional watch of Ramesh Chand and his staff at Kula Eco-Park, the Monuriki Iguanas have laid 18 eggs this year and if all hatch and survive, there will be 50 young iguanas at the state of the art breeding facility….a remarkable achievement and a world first for Fiji.
Now that the island has been declared free of the feral goats and rats which threatened the original population, primarily through the destruction of the native forest habitat, it is time for the project to reintroduce the progeny to the island. This will fulfill the project’s promise to the Monuriki landowners that all the young iguanas born at Kula will be returned to the island once the threats had been removed.
If Yadua Taba is anything to go by, we can expect a rapid increase in their numbers on the island. Another major beneficiary of the removal of rats and goats will be the colony of Wedge-tailed Shearwater which nest on Monuriki. Clearly the island has the potential to be a world class nature reserve which visitors would love to visit.
The Monuriki landowners now need good advice as to how to make the most of this new opportunity as a sustainable income source and at the same time build on the success of the project to further conservation on the island.
The project partners are the Monuriki landowners, the Kula Eco-Park, the National Trust of Fiji, BirdLife International and NatureFiji-MareqetiViti. Funding was primarily through the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund.