Fiji banded iguana
The Fiji banded iguana (Brachylophus fasciatus) is an arboreal species of lizard endemic to some of the southeastern Fijian islands. It is found in Tonga, where it was probably introduced by humans. It is one of the few species of iguanas found outside of the New World and one of the most geographically isolated members of the family Iguanidae. Populations of these iguanas have been declining over the past century due to habitat destruction, and more significantly, the introduction of mongoose and house cats to the islands.
The species is diurnal, spending their days foraging, basking and watching over their territories by day and retreating to the treetops at night. Fiji iguanas are considered a national treasure by the government of Fiji, and its likeness has been featured on postage stamps, currency, and phone book covers.
Fiji banded iguana
Fiji banded iguana (male) in captivity
Endangered (IUCN 3.1)
Taxonomy and etymology
This species was first described by French zoologist Alexandre Brongniart in 1800. The generic name, Brachylophus, is derived from two Greek words: brachys (βραχύς) meaning "short" and lophos (λόφος) meaning "crest" or "plume", denoting the short spiny crests along the back of this species. The specific name, fasciatus, is a Latin word meaning "banded".
This species is closely related to the Fiji crested iguana and B. bulabula. The genus Brachylophus has been suggested to have descended from a more widespread lineage of (now extinct) Old World iguanids that diverged from their New World relatives in the Paleogene. However, no other members of the putative lineage, living or fossil, have been found outside Fiji and Tonga. An alternative theory is that the ancestors of these iguanas rafted 9,000 kilometres (5,600 mi) west across the Pacific Ocean from the Americas, where their closest relatives are found.
Distribution and habitat :
The Fiji banded iguana is endemic to the Fiji Islands and is found on the islands of Wakaya, Moturiki, Beqa, Vatulele, Ono, Dravuni, Taveuni, Nggamea, Vanua, Balavu, Avea (Fiji), Vatu Vara, Lakeba, Aiwa, Oneata, Vanua Levu, Totoya, Kabara, and Fulaga. It was introduced to the Tonga Islands, New Hebrides, and Wallis and Futuna 300 years ago. It has been introduced to Vanuatu as a feral animal in the 1960s. The current wild population is less than 10,000 individuals in 29 distinct subpopulations. Fiji banded iguanas inhabit most of the undisturbed habitats on these islands, from high cloud forests to low-lying coastal swamps.
Close-up of a male Fiji banded iguana.
Sexually dimorphic, males have two or three white or pale-blue bands 2 centimetres (0.79 in) wide crossing their emerald green background with a pattern of spots and stripes on the nuchal region. Females, on the other hand, are solid green with occasional spotting or partial bands. Both sexes have a yellow underside. Fiji banded iguanas reach 60 centimetres (24 in) in length when measured from snout to tail tip and bodyweights of up to 200 grams (0.44 lb). The crests of these iguanas are very short reaching a length of 0.5 centimetres (0.20 in).
Although there appear to be slight variations between insular populations, none have been well-described. The animals from Tonga are smaller and leaner, and were previously described as B. brevicephalus.
The skin of this species is sensitive to light and the lizard can change its skin color to match its background. Captive specimens have been observed matching the pattern left by the screen tops of their cages in as little as 30 seconds.
The species is diurnal, spending their days foraging, basking and watching over their territories by day and retreating to the treetops at night. Male iguanas are highly visual, and aggressively defend their territories from rival males. The iguanas will deepen their green coloration to intensify their bands, and bob their heads and intimidate intruders by lunging at them with open mouths. They often expand and flare their dewlaps to increase the size of their profile, following up with violent battles amongst each other.
Fiji banded iguanas are herbivorous,they feed on the leaves, fruit, and flowers of trees and shrubs, particularly hibiscus flowers of the Vau tree (Hibiscus tiliaceus) and fruit such as banana and papaya. Captive hatchlings have been observed eating insects; however, adults usually will not.
Courtship is similar to other iguanids, with males approaching and tongue flicking the female's back, forelimbs and nuchal regions after a series of rapid head bobs. The breeding season occurs during the month of November. The Fiji banded iguana is oviparous and has a long incubation period of 160–170 days. Females guard the nest of three to six eggs, which is unusual for iguanids. Hatchlings emerge from their eggs in the rainy season and obtain moisture by licking wet leaves.
Relations with humans :
The Fijian name for iguana is "vokai", although some tribes call it "saumuri". Two tribes regard the iguana as their totem and as such its name is not allowed to be mentioned in the presence of women or the offender may be beaten with a stick. The majority of Fijians, however, are terrified of iguanas because of their behavior when threatened. On such occasions, an iguana turns black, opens its mouth and lunges at attackers.
The biggest threats this iguana faces is habitat loss due to fires, storms, agricultural development, and competition from feral goats. A secondary threat is introduced predators in the forms of rats, mongoose, and cats which prey on the iguanas and their eggs. Additionally the iguana has been hunted as a food source and for the illegal exotic animal trade.
Since 1982 the Fijian government has maintained that the entire zoo population of Fiji banded iguanas was obtained illegally or descended from smuggled animals: "Virtually all of the estimated 50–100 banded iguanas in American zoos have been obtained without the knowledge or consent of the Government of Fiji". The husbandry of Fiji banded iguanas at the San Diego Zoo has been documented as the most successful breeding colony of Fiji banded iguanas in the world.
For the external links , refrences click here to read the full wikipedia article
A Threatened National Treasure: The Fiji Banded Iguana Morphs for Survival
Other websites :
Care Articles :
1- Fijian Banded Iguana
Brachylophus fasciatus (Brongniart 1800)
by Schmidt Jürgen,
Description and history
The fiji iguana is one of the few iguana species of the old world and one of the most exceptional species of this family. It is rarely found in captivity there is little knowledge about their ethology, keeping and breeding. This species is one of the most colourful and most spectucar in the world. Males have a light- or darkgreen bodycolouration with white or blue dots and wave-like stripes on the neck and between two-four vertical bands on the flanks. The females are completely green and show sometimes little dots and partial bands on the flanks. The body structure is very similar to the desert iguana (Dipsosaurus dorsalis) but the head is heavier built and more compact. Adult Fiji-Iguanas, both males and females, reach a SVL of 15-20cms, with a total length of 60-75 cm. Sharp claws at the end of the long toes show that this is an arboreal species. On the single Fiji-islands a variety of different colour morphs have developed, but without being accepted as seperate subspecies. This species occur mainly on the larger Fiji-islands Viti Levu and Vanua Levu as well as the nearby island groups, eastern of the Lau-group to the Tonga-islands of Tongatapu, Ha’apai,Vava’u and `Eau, as well as the islandgroup of Vanuatu, where it has been introduced about 50 years ago and has established a stable population. Fiji- Iguanas are highly arboreal animals and live mostly in the coastal low forests. Sometimes they are also found in mangroves, but they are rarely seen in the central rainforests of the islands. The prefered habitat of these iguanas are trees and higher bushes with dense leavecovers where their camouflage colouration protects them and they find enough to feed (leaves, fruits and flowers). Fijis spent their whole live in the trees and come only for egglaying to the ground.
Zooligical breedingprojects and private breeding Status
The San Diego Zoo has the biggest captive population of Fiji-iguanas in the world (about 80 animals), which is divided on 15 other zoos in the US. In some zoos it was already possible to breed these animals to the third generation. Eight of the total ten animals in San Diego are from the Orchid Island Cultura Centre in Fiji and where imported in 1987 to the US. Some of the original animals have died in the meantime, but it was possible to breed with all iguanas and in the last years more than 100 animals were produced. Only a few zoos in Europe, are working with this specie since a few years. Only the Zoo in Rotterdam/Netherland has captive bred animals from San Diego, all other Zoos (Vienna, Duessldorf, Zurich,..) have captive bred animals from a private breeder. Unfortunately the dutchmen were not so lucky regarding the breeding in the last 10 years, all animals in the other European zoos are still to young for breeding. Due to a import-restrictions of Fish and Wildlife Service it is not allowed for US private persons to keep these animals. Only in Europe there are a few private keepers and also the breeding was succesful in the past. From time to time captive-bred animals are offered, which are high-priced.
Fiji iguanas should be kept in large terrariums, with a minimum of 200 x 100 x 120 cm (L x W x H). The bigger the terrarium is, the better the iguanas could be kept pairwise, because the males are extremely territorial and can sometimes also be aggressive towards the females. The terrarium should be built in a way, so that the pair could be separated with a wall easily. Horizontal and vertical branches with a rough surface of different width are essential. They will use this branches for resting the most time of the day. Natural plants can be used as decoration inside the terrarium, species like Ficus, Pothos, Philodendron und Nephthytis can be used. The problem is, they will also be eaten. For a controlled breeding and feeding it is essential to have a controlled feeding, why natural plants shouldn’t be taken. Many artificial plants also make the refuge places for the females, as a cover against the males. The terrarium should be misted daily with tempered water. Most times the iguanas start soon to drink the drops. Anyway a bowl with fresh water should also be placed in the terrarium. Especially for juveniles the dehydration risk is high. Because of the high humidity (humidity: 60-80% day, 75-95% night) the terrariums should never be made of wood, but of plastic or plexiglas. For the ground floor it is possible to use different substrates, dry sand is the best. A mixture of sand and peat or peat by itself molders very quickly, because of the high humidity, and are a potential health risk. For enough fresh air, four ventilations of 10 x 30 cm at the front of the terrariums should be made. Fiji-iguanas become ill very soon with sticky air, especially they skin problems. The technical requirements are 4 light tubes á 18 Watt (Phillips TL96) and two spots with UVB with 160 Watt, which are changed once a year against new ones. These spots are regulated by a thermostat with sensor (Biotherm 2000) consulting in temperatures of 28-32°C. Below the spot the temperature can raise till 40°C, the distance to the basking-place of the animals is 25-30 cm. In the night the temperature should be around 20°C, temperatures under 15°C shouldn’t be reached for long duiring the night. The animals shouldn’t be kept outdoors for the whole day, in areas where the night temperature are very low. A possiblity to get into warmer places should also be possible outdoors. A temperory outdoor keeping is recommended. The animals or more active after it, have more appetite and the colours are brighter. The photo-periode should be 12h/day year round. Male Fijis are very territorial and have to be separated as soon as they get sexually mature. Furthermore a visual-barriers to other terrariums with males should be provided. The extreme territorial behaviour can be iniciated also by other species like green iguanas or basilisks. Over a longer period this causes a stress-death of the Fiji-male. However, short sight of other males for 30 minutes once a month is very stimulating for the males and their willing to mate. After such stimulations the males should be observed that they don’t attack the females and may hurt them. The females show from time to time territorial behaviour, too. The best is to keep the animals in pairs, this is possible the whole year. If it is necessary to seperate the animals, their behaviour should observed very adequately when they are put together again, to see attacks of the male. If the fight severe and the results are bigger bites the pair should be seperated immediately to avoid further damages. Some pairs could never be put together again after they were seperated.
Fiji-iguanas are omnivor. Thats why they need a brought variety on food. Adults get six times a week a vegetable and fruit mix, consisting of different grases, leaves, herbs, vegetables and fruits. In the summer the only food is outdoor-„stuff“ from an unfertilized Meadow. Once a week the animals starve for one day. 2 times a week they get insects, which are offered in a bowl or with tweezers. The insects got powdered before with a minerale and vitamine supplement (Korvimin ZVT). Prefered feeding insects are Jumpers, wax moths including their larvae, Zophobas and silkworms. Roaches are taken only by a few animals. Especially the males should be observed well to recognise that they don’t get to fat. The legs, the tail and the neck should be well muscled but not fat. Overweighted males should be put on diet (only every second day vegetable and fruit mix and temporarily no insects). Gravis females have a bigger appetite and must get a very diversified food. As an additional Calcium resort sepia- and egg-shellspowder should be offered. Most females eat till a short time (3-5 days) before egg-laying. If an animal denies the food for a longer period (2-4 weeks) it can be a sign for problems. If the female looks prior to the egg-laying in most cases it has no problems with the egg-laying. Some Fiji-iguanas are bad feeders from the beginning, that’s why the food has to be very fresh and has to contain a lot of minerals and vitamines. Deficiency syndroms caused by bad or to less food could be avoided on that way. Especially such animals should be watched daily to see deficiency syndroms early enough. Force-feeding mostly causes the daeth of the animal. The given food can’t be digested and resorbed by the weak organism. The reason for the bad feeding is probably a disordered darmflora. Even recently hatched animals which don’t take food can’t be force-fed.
The courtship of the Fijis is always combined with head-nodding, colourchanges and bites in the neck and the forelegs. This happens very often without a resulting copulation. The females often get injured by the males. If the wounds are bigger the females need medical care, because these wounds can result in combination with the humid environment in severe infections. In the time of the main courtship the females sometimes lose their appetite and it is often necessary to feed the female with the tweezers. Normally the males and females reach sexual maturaty in the terrarium with 2 years. But with good feeding the first clutches can be observed at the age of 16-18 months. These clutches are often unfertiled with 1-3 eggs. The first fertiled clutches are produced at the age of 2-3 years, with every year the clutch-size increases to end with 4-7 eggs. Normally the females produce one clutch per year, but some females produce up to four per year. Mostly only one of them is fertiled. The egg-laying can observed throughout the whole year with an optimum in April-July. To lay the eggs the females seldom use use the offered egg-laying boxes (45 x 45 x 30 cm) which were used very succesful in the San Diego Zoo. In the authors terrarium the females burrowed the eggs in 10-15 cm deep sand, or in terrariums with natural plants into the flowerpots (ca. 20cm diameter). Fertile eggs are about 40 x 20 mm and weigh 8-10 grams. The eggs are incubated in Vermiculite with a water-ratio of 1:1. Other incubation substrates weren’t tested. The whole clutch is incubated in normal plastic boxes of 20 x 20 x 10 cm. On the upper edge or on the cover of the box six 3-5 mm-big holes were made which were closed first. Incubating every single egg instead of the whole clutch in a single box results in a decreased hatching result. Probably the not hatched babies were stimulated by the already hatched ones. The same observations could be made with other iguanas (Iguana, Cyclura, Sauromalus). Every second day the eggs have to be controlled. At a temperature of 28-29.5 the babies will hatch after 120-200 days. At lower or higher temperatures the percentage of deformed babies was very high. Hatchlings weight about 8-14 grams and mostly the sexes are already recognizable on the colouration. Until the baby slit the egg with its eggtooth it is important not frighten the hatchlings from this moment on. Otherwise it could happen that they hatch in panic before they have resorbed all the egg yolk. The whole procedure can take 2 days, untill the hatchlings have left the egg. For another day the hatchlings are left in the incubation box, but the holes on the edge or the cover were opened to guarantee enogh air ventilation. On the third day they were taken off the incubation box and put into another incubation box without substrate. The ground is covered with humid soft-paper. Here the hatchlings rest for two days until the rest of the yolk and the umbillical cord has fallen down. Now the babies were put together in terrariums of 80 x 60 x 60 cms. If they are single housed, they will sometimes refuse any food. The food should consist of the same things as for the adults and the terrarium is set as for the adults too. Normally they start to feed the 10th-14th day but it can happen that they start at the age of 14-30 days. Some of them will eat more insects as the adults, they should have the possibility to do it till the age of 1 year. Youngs should be fed 7 days a week. Once a week they should be weighted. If an animal loses 10% of its weight in one week it has to be fed with the tweezers. A proper method for „hand-feeding“ is to put the fooditem into the mouthancle. Normally the babies start to chew and to swallow immadiately after this procedure. While the animal is chewing on the first food item it should be tried to give the second one on the same way. Another possibility is to put a drop of baby-food (Alete, Milupa etc..these small glasses) on the nose. When the animal starts to lick it the next drop should be applied. At the age of three-six months the small iguanas should move into bigger terrariums. The best would be to put them in these terrariums where they could remain as adults.
Comments and Discussion :
If the required conditions are fulfilled, Fijis make long-living terrarium animals. I got my animals in the early 1990s at this time the animas were about 4 years old, so that a lifespan of 20-25 years is realistic. Ill animals have characteristic signs like bad appetite, dark to black colouration and deep lying eyes. Fijis need intense care and daily observation. Everybody who can fulfill this will have a lot of joy with them.
2- Seeking Out The Fiji Crested Iguana
BY JERRY FIFE
Cannibals, head shrinking and Captain Bly are just three elements that help paint Fiji’s colorful past. The 300-plus islands that comprise Fiji are now known more for surfing, scuba diving, snorkeling and romance. The Fijian people welcome tourists with the native greeting of bula (hello), and visitors from around the world come to enjoy the coconut palm-lined beaches, romantic cruises and the laid-back life style. For me, however, there was a different reason to visit Fiji: the Fiji crested iguana!
Although all three iguana species endemic to the Fiji islands--the Fiji crested iguana, the Lau banded iguana, and the Fiji banded iguana--are classified as Endangered to Critically endangered on the IUCN Red List and listed on Appendix I of CITES, the crested iguana is the most imperiled.
There are three iguana species endemic to the Fiji Islands: the Fiji crested iguana (Brachylophus vitiensis), the Lau banded iguana (B. fasciatus) and the Fiji banded iguana (B. bulabula). The Fiji crested iguana is the largest and most colorful of the three, and while all of them are classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List and listed on Appendix I of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), it also is the most imperiled.
The Fiji crested iguana was discovered in 1979 by Dr. John Gibbons, and it is restricted to the drier, northwestern islands of Fiji. It was once widely distributed throughout the Mamanuca Islands, Monuriki, the Yasawa Islands and a small island called Yadua Taba. Its numbers have declined drastically, however, and it is no longer found on many of the islands due to habitat destruction, introduced goats that graze on native trees, and the fact that it is easy prey for feral cats, dogs and mongoose.
The Fiji National Trust recognized these threats and it had the uninhabited island of Yadua Taba cleared of goats and declared a Fiji crested iguana sanctuary. This was the place I wanted to go.
Yadua Taba in Fiji
Visiting Yadua Taba required an approval process, and my first step was to contact the Fiji National Trust. A permit would be mandatory, so I completed the extensive permit application and mailed it, along with the application fee and a copy of my iguana book, to the National Trust.
That was only the beginning, and it took approximately a year and numerous emails to coordinate the trip. Finally, in June 2011, I was all set to go. Then, to my horror, everything almost fell apart thanks to a cruise ship that made an unauthorized stop at Yadua Taba the week before I was set to leave. Luckily, despite this unexpected turn of events, I was relieved to find out I would still be permitted to visit the sanctuary, along with several members of the National Trust, who would be assessing any damage resulting from the unauthorized cruise ship stop.
THE VILLAGE OF DENIMANU ON THE ISLAND OF YADUA, WHICH IS NEXT TO YADUA TABA. THE AUTHOR HAD TO PRESENT THE CHIEF WITH THE TRADITIONAL GIFT OF KAVA ROOTS AND OBTAIN PERMISSION FROM THE CHIEF TO VISIT YADUA TABA.
We set out. The original plan was to camp on Yadua Taba for two nights, but due to rough seas we were unable to reach the island. Instead, drenched from the rough boat ride, we landed on the neighboring island of Yadua, where we would spend the first night in the village of Denimanu. Upon landing, one of the first orders of business was to present the village chief with a traditional offering of kava roots. We also asked for and received his permission to visit the iguana sanctuary on Yadua Taba. A traditional meal followed the kava ceremony, and my anticipation mounted at the prospect of finally being able to visit the iguana sanctuary the next day, weather permitting.
Exploring the Iguana Sanctuary at Yadua Taba
Fortunately, the sea was calm the next morning, and we set sail for Yadua Taba. Upon arrival, we set up tents and immediately set out to search for Fiji crested iguanas.
The first iguana was spotted high up in an ivi tree above our campsite, where only its silhouette was visible through the thick, round leaves. There are reportedly several thousand iguanas on the island, and the heavy vegetation provides great camouflage and protection for them. The Pacific boa (Candoia bibroni), which preys on lizards elsewhere in Fiji, is not found on Yadua Taba, so the only natural predators of the iguanas are birds, such as the Fiji hawk.
THE AUTHOR HOLDS A FIJI CRESTED IGUANA IN HIS HANDS, AND HAS A PAIR OF BANDED IGUANAS ON HIS SHOULDERS, AT THE KULA ECO PARK IN SIGATOKA ON THE MAIN ISLAND OF VITI LEVU.
We hiked inland, under the canopy, and within a few minutes found another iguana relaxing on a branch about 15 feet off the ground. Although I had held a Fiji crested iguana at Kula Eco Park (located on Viti Levu, the largest island in Fiji), seeing my first Brachylophus vitiensis in the wild was an incredible feeling. I felt honored, too, because I think I may be the only American citizen who has been permitted to camp on Yadua Taba. I knew I was seeing and experiencing something only a handful of people outside of Fiji have ever experienced, and that moment of getting a good look at that iguana in its natural habitat lived up to all expectations. Fiji crested iguanas are truly beautiful lizards.
While walking back to camp, the ranger (there is one, who regularly patrols the island) pointed out where he had observed an iguana laying eggs. Nests are dug on the forest floor in shaded areas, and a clutch of two to six eggs is laid, generally during the rainy season between the months of February and April. The oval eggs are approximately 1.25 inches long and take more than six months to hatch. There are no subspecies recognized, though Fiji crested iguanas on other islands do exhibit some distinguishing features, including differences in pattern and size (a smaller-than-normal iguana was discovered on another northern Fiji island just weeks before my visit).
The female Fiji banded iguana (B. bulbula) is a solid green and lacks the white banding of males
The National Trust staff invited me along to assess the damage caused by the unauthorized cruise ship visitors from the previous week. We walked along the beach until we arrived at their landing site. Fortunately, the only evidence that they had been there was the remains of some coconuts that had been eaten. We could see the nearby island of Yadua, and it was scary to think that this much larger island, one that was so close to Yadua Taba, was no longer home to any iguanas.
We found several iguanas along the rocks and among vegetation next to the beach. This was when I got to hold my first wild Fiji crested iguana. It was amazing to discover how calm even a wild specimen was, as it exerted only a minimal effort at escape. Both male and female Fiji crested iguanas share the same color patterns. When they are calm, they are predominantly bright green with white bands that are often outlined in black. They have tan eyes and bright yellow nostrils, and some have a bit of yellow on their lips. The dewlap is turquoise and both sexes have a crest down their backs. Adults grow to about 30 inches from the snout to the tip of the tail. Males can be distinguished by the broader head, femoral pores and hemipenal bulge at the base of the tail.
I continued exploring the island and soon learned that a Fiji crested iguanas natural defense is similar to that of a chameleon. It will try to blend in with its surroundings and will slowly move to the opposite side of a branch so only its feet are visible. When confronted it will stand up tall, flatten its body and gape to look large and fierce. While an agitated iguana may bite, such displays are mostly for show and I found I could easily slide my hand under them to pick them up. Flight seems to be the absolutely last choice for defense and perhaps this is why these iguanas are so susceptible to unnatural predators, such as cats and dogs.
Another chameleon-like characteristic of B. vitiensis is its ability to change colors. When threatened or stressed, it can turn from its normal bright green to practically black. They seemed to turn darker the longer a perceived threat persisted. While this was interesting to observe, it did make it difficult to get photos of the iguanas displaying their vivid green coloration.
During my short stay on Yadua Taba, we found more than 30 crested iguanas. We found them throughout the island, from vegetation bordering the beach to the top of the highest peak. In addition to the iguanas, Yadua Taba is home to a number of other reptile species, including a variety of skinks, the hawksbill sea turtle and the sea krait. When we first landed, we found tracks and the nesting site of a hawksbill that had come ashore to lay eggs the previous night. Several species of sea turtles are found throughout Fiji, but the hawksbill is the only one reported to nest on Yadua Taba. We also found one small, black and white banded sea krait in a tidal pool.
I was left mostly on my own, observing and photographing iguanas. I was also happy to learn that the snorkeling off Yadua Taba was exceptional. Not only is the island protected, but the surrounding waters are, too, with no fishing allowed. The fish and coral were spectacular. In addition to the vast array of corals, sea slugs and colorful fish, I also found a moray eel peering out from its hole in the coral reef. I was told that manta rays could be found in the deeper waters off the island, though I didn’t see any.
The small volcanic island of Yadua Taba is just over 4 square miles. It is classified as tropical dry forest, though it receives about 80 inches of rain annually, mostly during the wet season from February to April. Coconut palms line the beaches, giving way to other trees, vines and tropical vegetation. The purple fruit of Vavaea amicorum is an important part of the crested iguana’s diet in the wild, along with Hibiscus tiliaceus. The canopy on Yadua Taba is considered low, but in places it is 30 feet tall. I decided to hike to the highest point on the island and the top of a 300-foot peak. I soon found, however, that hiking to the top was extremely difficult due to the steep terrain, loose soil and a thick patch of non-native lantana that I came upon. The National Trust has made efforts to remove invasive vegetation, but this particular patch of lantana was in a challenging location from which it would be extremely difficult to remove.
After I navigated my way around the lantana, and as I continued upward, I was able to photograph four different skink species: a barred tree skink (Emoia trossula), a brown-tailed copper-striped skink (E. cyanura), a green tree skink (E. concolor) and a blue-tailed copper-striped skink (E. impar). Finally, I crested the peak. The vegetation at the top was as thick as that of the rest of the island, and I was pleased to find a Fiji crested iguana in a tree at this highest elevation. This meant that the species was well distributed across the island, and not just at the lower elevations.
The Banded Iguanas of Fiji :
As previously mentioned, the other two iguanas endemic to Fiji are the two species of banded iguanas: the Lau banded iguana (B. fasciatus) and the Fiji banded iguana (B. bulabula). The Lau banded iguana is found in the Lau group of islands, east of the two largest Fiji islands, and Tonga. The Fiji banded iguana is found in wet forest on several islands in central Fiji, including Ovaluau, Kadavu and others. The two species of banded iguana are similar in appearance. They were even classified as the same species, B. fasciatus, until 2008. Unlike the Fiji crested iguana, banded iguanas can be found in U.S. zoos, where most are labeled on zoo displays as Brachylophus fasciatus, even though they are in fact the more recently described B. bulabula.
The two banded iguanas are slightly smaller than the Fiji crested iguana: the Fiji banded iguana reaches a total length of little more than 18 inches from the snout to the tip of the tail; the Lau banded iguana is about 3 or 4 inches shorter.
Males are emerald green with prominent light bluish or white bands. Females of both species lack the bands and are solid green, though they may exhibit some lighter spots. Both banded iguanas have yellow nostrils and may have some yellow coloration on their lips, though the Lau banded iguana’s nasal scale is more elongate and has a reduced yellow coloration. It also has an orange-red iris, while the Fiji banded iguana’s iris is red. Male B. fasciatus lack a nuchal stripe and have nuchal spotting instead, and this species also has a smaller parietal eye and shorter dorsal crest than B. bulabula.
Both banded iguanas can reach sexual maturity in less than 18 months. One to seven eggs are laid in a clutch, which take four to six months to hatch at a temperature between 84 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Unlike the Fiji crested iguana, which may lay eggs only every two years in the wild, captive banded iguanas have been known to double clutch. Breeding groups may include one male and multiple females, and males will fight to defend their territories (the same is true for the Fiji crested iguana).
Like the Fiji crested iguana, the banded iguanas are arboreal and feed on various vegetation, fruit and flowers. Hibiscus leaves and flowers are common for both wild and captive banded iguana diets, along with mango, papaya, kiwi, berries, melons and various greens.
Fiji Crested Iguana Populations
Although I feel priviliged to be one of the few people who has had the opportunity to see Fiji crested iguanas in the wild, I remain concerned for the future of the species. It has been estimated that 99 percent of the world’s population of Fiji crested iguanas is on the small sanctuary of Yadua Taba. One tsunami could wipe out much of the island, or create a land bridge to Yadua which could introduce rats or mongoose to the sanctuary. Invasive plants could threaten the native plants that the iguanas rely upon for food and shelter. Any invasive animal or virus could be devestating to the iguana population there.
The Fiji National Trust has done much to protect the iguana by establishing Yadua Taba as a sanctuary and clearing the island of goats, as well as educating people about the iguana. However, it has few resources to implement its full management plan for this species. Captive breeding could help, but complicating matters are laws protecting the iguanas that currently prevent captive-breeding programs outside of Fiji.
The Kula Eco Park is one of the few facilities breeding Fiji crested iguanas. It is a privately owned facility, though, and if it were ever closed down, would the National Trust have the resources to continue captive breeding of the iguana or would all captive breeding of the species cease? There are insufficent bloodlines outside of Fiji to sustain captive breeding, yet the Fiji government has been hesitant to allow export of their national treasure to international zoos or breeding facilities. If a reintroduction plan is needed to help the Fiji crested iguana survive in the wild, will there be sufficient founder stock and captive-breeding facilities to facilitate such a plan?
The two banded iguanas are not as critically threatened as the Fiji crested iguana. There are a few islands where they are common, and populations are stable. They are protected and classified as CITES I, and they are also on the U.S. Endangered Species list. They are being bred by zoos in the U.S., as well as by private breeders in Europe. I am not aware of any permits, however, that have been approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that allow any private individuals in the U.S. to keep any of the Fiji iguana species.
If you want to see live Fiji crested iguanas in the flesh, you will have to travel to Fiji or Australia (in addition to the Kula Eco Park, several Australian zoos maintain the species). There are none in U.S. zoos or private collections. Much like the mystical past of Fiji, the Fiji crested iguana has had a history intertwined with pirates and smugglers. Attempts have been made to smuggle the iguana out of Fiji in every imaginable way, including one smuggler who tried hiding some in a hollow leg! Hopefully, the conservation efforts of the Fiji National Trust and the breeding efforts of the Kula Eco Park will ensure that the Fiji crested iguana will be protected for future generations. If you are interested in helping to protect this magnificent iguana, please consider making a donation to the National Trust by visiting the website at nationaltrust.org.fj. REPTILES
Jerry Fife lives in Phoenix, Ariz. He has written various articles and books, including the book, Iguanas: A Pictorial Guide to the Iguanas of the World and Their Care in Captivity. He breeds several iguana species and has traveled to see every genus in the Iguanidae family in nature. He can be contacted through his website at fifereptiles.com.
IGUANA -- Introduction
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IGUANA -- Introduction