The Giant Invasive Iguana in Fiji

Iguana Iguana

A native to South and Central America, the giant invasive iguana was believed to have been smuggled on to Qamea Island, east of Taveuni in 2000. Todate, the  estimated population has grown to an estimated population of at least 2500 individuals.

In early 2010, visiting  petologists, Dr. Rob Fisher and Dr. Peter Harlow  recorded breeding populations on Qamea Island and  while occasional adults have been captured or sighted on Laucala and Taveuni.

With no natural predators, its numbers are expected to  exponentially and spread to more islands in Fiji. Destructive impacts of this invasive species in Puerto Rico and Florida have caused millions of dollars in damages.

 An American iguana infected by a fungal disease. Our native iguanas are at risk of contracting such diseases; which could cause the extinction of our endemic iguanas. Picture supplied by Dr. Rob Fisher.

An American iguana infected by a fungal disease. Our native iguanas are at risk of contracting such diseases; which could cause the extinction of our endemic iguanas. Picture supplied by Dr. Rob Fisher.

Threats

  • The American iguana is potentially a serious pest of village gardens and farms. They are generally herbivores and if the numbers are left unchecked, food sustainability in Fijian villages will be at great risk in the near future.
  • An unwanted nuisance to the tourism industry,
  • An agent of Salmonella poisoning,
  • Their burrows undermine seawalls and  foundations.

American iguanas cannot be poisoned or easily trapped. The only way to reliably eradicate them is to capture and kill each one and to target nesting areas to destroy the females and their eggs. They nest in open areas with good sunlight and suitable soil which are limited and provide focus sites for eradication effort.

Key Objectives

Control and eradication through advocacy and capacity building to communities

The eradication of the American iguana from Fiji requires a long term project involving good communications, awareness and participation the inhabitants in known areas where it currently
occurs.

 AIEC billboard along the main road on Taveuni Island.

AIEC billboard along the main road on Taveuni Island.

Current Project Activities

  • Training local community in prevention awareness surveillance, immediate response and reporting
  • Producing incursion response plans and awareness materials
  • Conducting imp act assessments of the American Iguana

Achievements to-date

  • The formation of theAmerican Iguana Eradication Campaign (AIEC) taskforce in 2010 was a NatureFiji‐ MareqetiViti and the Ministry of Primary Industries , which included
    the Departments of Agriculture, Forestry, and Environment.
  • Change of villagers’ perception of the American Iguana as a novelty or as a pet with good support
  • for eradicating them
  • Awareness and advocacy to villages in Taveuni, Qamea and Vanua Levu
  • Engaging tourist operators, government departments, communities and the provincial office in Taveuni in developing an American Iguana Incursion Response Plan
  • Produced awareness materials such as stickers and posters for tour operators, staff, visitors and
    communities in Taveuni and nearby islands

Further Actions Needed

  • Completion of the awareness program in the remainder of the Biosecurity Zone (rest of Taveuni,
    Laucala, parts of Natewa and adjoining islands);
  • Workshops to be held to report on: species and amage caused by the iguana;
  • fate/outcome of the iguanas confis cated from the area under the biosecurity promulgation
  • Further training for the community to monitor and find all its breeding locations; proper handling and disposal of the iguana, and eradication methods
  • Officials need to be trained in handling the species and proper means of confiscation.
  • Acquisition of wildlife detector dogs for targeted  search and destruction of nests.

Project Number: MV-25d

Project Manager: Nunia Thomas

Project Funder/Donor: EU

Project Start Date: January 2012

Project End Date: Ongoing

Partners: BAF, EU