Meet Belfast Zoo's new arrivals - three Utila iguanas
Belfast Zoo is celebrating the arrival of three critically endangered Utila iguanas.
The new additions hatched last month and visitors can now see them at the site's reptile and amphibian house.
Belfast Zoo received the iguana eggs from Cotswold Wildlife Park which were then kept in a temperature-controlled incubator for three months until they hatched.
The new babies only measure about 15 centimetres at the moment but, when fully grown, these reptiles will measure up to 60 centimetres.
Belfast Zoo Senior Keeper, Allan Galway, said: “In April, we opened Belfast Zoo’s newly renovated reptile and amphibian house which became home to 15 new species, showing our continued commitment to both the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria regional collection plans for reptiles and the World Association of Zoos and Aquaria world conservation strategy.
"As part of the development of this house, we installed a ‘nursery’, to be utilised as the animals breed and the population of the house grows."
The Utila iguana is named after its tropical island home of Utila, which is located in the Caribbean.
Utila iguanas are unique because they are the only type of spiny-tailed iguana to live in mangrove swamps.
The female cannot lay her eggs in the swamp and she therefore moves to nearby beaches, lays the eggs and buries them in the sand for the sun to incubate them.
Allan continued: "The future of this iguana is currently hanging in the balance as they are under threat from habitat destruction, an increase in tourism and the impact of invasive plants and animals that have been introduced to the island.
"It is estimated that there could be fewer than 5000 left in the wild with populations continuing to decrease. It is therefore vital that zoos play an active role, by working together collaboratively through the breeding programme, to ensure the long-term survival of the Utila iguana should this worrying trend continue in the wild.”
Belfast Zoo’s new reptile and amphibian house is home to 15 new species including the critically endangered golden mantella, mossy frogs, lemur leaf frogs, venomous Mexican beaded lizards, Jamaican boas and yellow-headed day geckos.
Belfast Telegraph Digital