Antillean iguanas leave Dutch government meetings up in the air

A Lesser Antillean iguana. Photo: Postdlf via Wikimedia Commons
A Lesser Antillean iguana. Photo: Postdlf via Wikimedia Commons

Prime minister Mark Rutte is bringing back four iguanas on his return from the island of St Maarten on Tuesday, broadcaster NOS reports.

The prime minister’s visit to the hurricane stricken islands of St Maarten, St Eustatius and Saba- in a government plane – proved a godsend to Diergaarde Blijdorp, a Dutch zoo which is trying to save the threatened species from extinction by means of a breeding programme.

The zoo had no means of transporting the animals to the Netherlands until the timely visit by the prime minister.

‘No airline was prepared to transport them,’ Blijdorp spokesman Mark de Boer told the broadcaster. ‘We contacted foreign affairs and it so happened the prime minister was going to visit the islands. So now they are travelling in the official plane. It has no hold so the cases are sitting in the space reserved for meetings. So Rutte won’t be having any meetings on the way back,’ De Boer told NOS.

The Antillean iguana is under threat from traffic, cats, dogs, loss of habitat and the odd barbecue. ‘It’s scientific name is not iguana delicatissima for nothing,’ NOS quotes De Boer as saying.

The greatest threat to the creature is another iguana, however. The green iguana is not only bigger and stronger but is also mating with the smaller species producing viable offspring. According to De Boer, iguana delicatissima could be history in twenty years.

The breeding programme now includes ten iguanas, including those in zoos in Jersey and Vienna. De Boer thinks it will not be a problem to build a ‘reserve population’ after which the animals will be released in places where they are extinct.

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