The Turks & Caicos Rock Iguana ( Cyclura carinata ) is found nowhere else in the world. It is a shy and harmless reptile.
These large lizards were once found on nearly all of the islands of the Turks & Caicos archipelago. Unfortunately, iguanas are no longer found on islands where livestock and domesticated animals ( especially cats and dogs ) have been introduced. These docile creatures have now taken refuge mainly on small uninhabited cays away from human settlement.
Iguanas feed mainly on berries, leaves and fruits, occasionally supplementing this diet with insects. The Rock Iguana is the largest native land animal in the Turks & Caicos Islands and plays a very important role in the ecosystem. Their foraging activities help to maintain native plant communities and aid in the dispersal and germination of seeds.
Our rock iguana lives and sleeps in shallow burrows they dig in loose sand or under rocks. In the morning they emerge from their burrows and bask in the sun before going off to feed. At midday, when the sun is the hottest, they retreat into the shade to avoid overheating.
During mating season, beginning early May, the nesting females dig a side tunnel off the main burrow to lay their eggs. After laying their eggs in early summer, the female seals up the nesting chamber and walks away. The heat from the sand incubates the eggs, which hatch about 90 days later. Guided by instinct, the small hatchling dig their way out through the top of the chamber and emerge into the sunlight.
There are more than 50,000 Rock Iguanas in the Turks & Caicos, the healthiest and largest population in the Caribbean. This may seem like a lot to some people, but even this figure can quickly diminish if we do not take action to protect this symbol of our national heritage.
The Turks & Caicos Rock Iguana is ours ! It is found nowhere else on earth. While many of the cays where it live are protected in our National Parks, the iguana itself is not protected.
Our islands are constantly changing - changes brought about by both nature and development. To insure that the iguana does not disappear from our country, as iguanas have in many Caribbean nations, we need special legislation that protects the Turks & Caicos Rock Iguana and its habitat. We have something that is the only one of its kind. We should be proud of it and continue to protect and preserve this unique animal as part of our national heritage.