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Hatchlings of endangered pink iguanas gives hope to scientists

A young pink iguana (Pic. Courtesy Galápagos Conservancy/Galápagos National Park Directorate)

Scientists having monitored the pink iguanas in the Galapagos Islands for the last 10 months during which they made seven trips, have finally something to rejoice. As per a report in smithsonianmag.com, they have discovered and documented the first-ever nesting sites and hatchlings of these reptiles.

This news is significant as the population of these critically endangered pink iguanas is between 200 to 300 and their numbers have been decreasing steadily. As the remaining reptiles are aging, there is a fear that this species may become extinct.

Incidentally, Galapagos Islands are where Charles Darwin made his observations and collections that helped in the inception of the theory of evolution through natural selection.

Pink iguanas were first found in 1986 and it was after several years in 2009 they were declared different species. At that time only older pink iguanas were found in the area. In a statement, Danny Rueda, Director of Galapagos National Park said: “This discovery marks a significant step forward, which allows us to identify a path going forward to save the pink iguana.”

This is important as the world’s population of these herbivorous lizards is limited to Wolf Volcano, the tallest in Galapagos and located in Isabela Island. Spread across the volcano are several cameras that help monitor and document the nesting activities of these creatures.

Cameras also spotted the prime predators who ate their young ones – the non-native feral cats – as these are easy prey for them. As young iguanas died early it adversely affected their numbers. Apart from cats, the hatchlings are threatened by rats too.

Stressing the importance of finding these nesting sites and hatchlings, Paul Salaman, President of Galapagos Conservancy observed: “The discovery of the first-ever nest and young pink iguanas together with evidence of the critical threats to their survival has also given us the first hope for saving this enigmatic species from extinction. Now, our work begins to save the pink iguana.”

Interestingly, the babies are not pink. They are neon yellow-green with dark striping and on becoming mature, they develop a rosy hue. These lizards can grow up to 18.5 inches.

Aiming to help in conservation and reduce poaching and trafficking of these creatures, Galápagos Conservancy has funded setting up a field station which has a 360-degree view of Wolf Volcano.

Besides these iguanas the Galápagos boasts of other species that exist only in this region including the Galapagos penguin, the marine iguana and giant Galápagos tortoise.