Why a blog about reptiles on a scuba adventure website?
Nine years ago an Italian organization, San Benedeto del Puerto, started several eco tourism projects in and around Las Galeras one of which was the funding of the construction of an iguana sanctuary for the Cyclura cornuta iguana more commonly known as the Rhinoceros Iguana. This iguana is indigenous to the island of Hispaniola and used to be widely dispersed and abundant in most regions. Due largely to human encroachment of their natural habitat, the loss of eggs and juveniles to feral cats and roaming dogs, their numbers have significantly decreased. So much so that conservationists have now labeled them as vulnerable and they are now a protected species. Hence the formation of the sanctuary.
Rhinos (as many locals call them) are quite powerful creatures and an average adult male weighs in at around 10 kilograms or 22lbs and grows to between 50 to 60 centimeters or 2 feet long. They are grey brown in colour have scaly skin with enlarged scales on the heads. These resemble horns and this is how they came to be called Rhinos.
Generally they live along the rocky limestone lowlands and eat the fruits, leaves and flowers of a variety of plants. As they are cold blooded, they like to sun themselves during the day but night time finds them in crevices, caves or burrows in the sand or dirt.
The iguanas mate just once a year, usually at the start of the first rainy season and a female, who doesn’t become sexually mature until 2 or 3 years of age, can produce up to 15 eggs which take around 85 days to hatch
Since its foundation, the sanctuary gives public education seminars to highlight the plight of the species and each year releases around 400 animals back into the wild.