Saving Goat Islands, Jamaica by National Geographic
<h3>Back from the Brink</h3>
The Jamaican iguana is the main character in a story of chance, collaboration, and resurgence. At the start of last century the iguana was believed to survive only on Goat Islands, two cays a long stone’s throw from the Hellshire Hills. After the last individuals were seen in 1948, the iguana was thought to have gone extinct – until, in 1990, a hog hunter chanced upon a live individual in the limestone forests of Hellshire Hills. Further exploration revealed around 50 survivors of the “rarest lizard in the world” in the most undisturbed portions of the remotest reaches of the country.
Following its rediscovery the iguana became a flagship for conservation in the West Indies, and the focus of an international recovery program. A consortium of twelve zoos, spearheaded by the Fort Worth Zoo in Texas, built a headstart facility at Hope Zoo in Kingston to rear eggs and hatchlings brought from the wild. This process of “headstarting” involves rearing hatchling iguanas in captivity to release them back into the wild once they are big enough to ward off predators. Since the first release in 1997, 174 headstarted Jamaican iguanas have been set free into their native Hellshire Hills habitat, and researchers have confirmed that headstarted iguanas are breeding and nesting in the wild.