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Cyclura ricordii

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA REPTILIA SQUAMATA IGUANIDAE

Scientific Name: Cyclura ricordii
Species Authority: (Duméril & Bibron, 1837)
Common Name/s:
English Ricord's Ground Iguana, Ricord's Rock Iguana, Ricord's Iguana
French Cyclure de Ricord, Cyclure d'Hispaniola, Iguane de Ricord
Spanish La Iguana Ricordi
Synonym/s:
Aloponotus ricordii Duméril & Bibron, 1837
Cyclura ricordi (Duméril & Bibron, 1837) [orth. error]

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered A1ce+2cde ver 2.3
Year Published: 1996
Date Assessed: 1996-08-01
Annotations:
Needs updating
Assessor/s: Ottenwalder, J.
History:
1994 Indeterminate (Groombridge 1994)
1990 Indeterminate (IUCN 1990)
1988 Indeterminate (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
1986 Insufficiently Known (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Ricord’s iguana is known only from southwestern Dominican Republic, where it is restricted to the arid Valle de Neiba and the most xeric portion of the Peninsula de Barahona coastal lowlands. The two populations are separated by the mesic Sierra de Baoruco (Massif de la Selle in Haiti), with three peaks exceeding 2,000 m that form an extensive ecological barrier. Past drier Pleistocene climates may have allowed genetic exchange between the two subpopulations. The total range of Ricord’s iguana in the Dominican Republic is under 100 km², and less than 60% of the historical range is occupied, most of it showing various levels of disturbance. Throughout their range, Ricord’s iguanas are sympatric with rhinoceros iguanas.
Countries:
Native:
Dominican Republic; Haiti
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: All available data indicate that the historical range of Ricord’s iguana was small and disjunct. Several factors indicate that the population is currently declining, including direct observation, reduction in the extent and quality of available habitat, and documentation of the negative effects of introduced species. Researchers and local inhabitants agree that until the mid-1970s, population densities of mature individuals were much higher than they are at present. Lacking more accurate data, a current population estimate of 2,000 to 4,000 is probably conservative but fair.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Compared to rhinoceros iguanas, Ricord’s iguanas are quite specialized. Several key environmental factors, including soil depth and texture, landform, bedrock parental material, and climate seem to determine their presence. Ricord’s iguanas inhabit the most arid regions of the Dominican Republic, where the climate is highly seasonal.

Ricord’s iguanas are strongly associated with thorn scrub woodlands, particularly with the thorn scrub-dry forest ecotone. Typical habitat can be found north of Cabo Rojo inside the fork of the Oviedo-Pedernales and Cabo Rojo-Acetillar bauxite mine roads. The topography of the area consists of a series of broad, flat plains punctuated by rocky steps and marine terraces with very fine soil over exposed dogtooth limestone. Trees and shrubs are widely spaced, without forming a closed canopy. Further north, only rhinoceros iguanas are present at a second, higher elevation site, with similar temperature but greater rainfall. In the transition zone between these two sites, both iguana species are present, sharing the edge habitat.

On Cabritos Island, where Ricord’s iguanas have historically outnumbered rhinoceros iguanas based on frequency of sightings by visiting researchers, the plant community is a succulent-dominated 5-6 m dry forest on white sandy soil with low topography. Ricord’s iguanas occur on north and south gentle slopes as well as on the central plateau, where soil conditions are favorable for their extensive burrows. Ricord’s iguanas feed on a wide variety of plants and plant parts, depending on local availability. Insects and crustaceans are also taken opportunistically.

While rhinoceros iguanas make extensive use of limestone crevices in addition to soil burrows, Ricord’s iguanas prefer to dig soil burrows which they continue to expand over time. Hollow tree trunks and rock cavities are also used for retreats when soil is unavailable. Retreat entrances are generally dug under dense thorny vegetation, shrubs, stumps, or exposed rocks.

Nesting sites are separate from retreats, in fine sandy soils. Egg laying is highly synchronized with the first rainy period (May-June). Females lay 2-18 eggs per clutch. Incubation lasts 95-100 days, and hatching is synchronized with the second rainy season (September-October). Females reach sexual maturity at about 2-3 years of age. The social behavior of Ricord’s iguana generally resembles that of other rock iguanas, although wild males defend females much more aggressively in captivity than do wild male rhinoceros iguanas maintained at lower densities in comparable enclosures. Although of major research interest and significant conservation importance, little is known of interspecific interactions between Ricord’s and rhinoceros iguanas.
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The major threats to Ricord’s iguanas are from human activities resulting in habitat reduction and degradation (clearing of vegetation for agricultural use, charcoal production, harvesting of fuelwood and hardwoods, overbrowsing by free-ranging livestock, mining of limestone, illegal collection of live cacti for local and international trade), in combination with local subsistence hunting for food and predation from introduced carnivores (dogs, cats and mongooses). Competition from mammalian herbivores probably also occurs. Hunting of Ricord’s iguanas for food and trade has increased gradually since the mid 1970s, both for local consumption as well as at a few oriental restaurants in Santo Domingo where iguanas were offered as a specialty dish. In the past, some hunters used to set up to 100 snare traps per day at the entrance of retreats, with 30-50% trapping success. Although current populations no longer support the numbers harvested 15 years ago, iguanas continue to be captured opportunistically in all areas with remaining populations, except on Isla Cabritos where law enforcement is presently effective.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Aside from occasional smuggling of animals across the Haitian border, compliance with international CITES trade regulations is effective. Enforcement of national protective legislation in the Dominican Republic has improved during the past few years, but effective control is adversely influenced by a number of factors. Clearing of natural habitat for development is not being prevented nor regulated and illegal hunting for food and the local pet market continues.

Ricord’s iguana is partially protected in two areas. In the Neiba Valley, about 60% of the area supporting iguanas, including Isla Cabritos and a section of the south shore of Lake Enriquillo, is protected within the recently created Lago Enriquillo National Park. The Isla Cabritos population has been protected within Isla Cabritos National Park since 1974.

In the Barahona Peninsula range, two protected areas, Parque Nacional Jaragua and the Acetillar Scenic Reserve, cover most of the remaining distribution of the species to the north and east of Cabo Rojo. Ricord’s iguanas are only known from the park’s western boundary, where conflicts with limestone mining concessions on both sides of the park border continue to be unresolved. Until now, no formal management has been established in the Acetillar reserve, and the habitat is impacted by a variety of activities.

As of November 1995 the total captive population of Ricord’s iguana was 5.9 individuals in two collections (Indianapolis Zoo and one private collection). Successful captive breeding has been achieved in both, but survivorship of young has been low. The only other significant captive breeding program was developed at the Parque Zoologico Nacional (ZooDom). Although adversely affected by institutional problems, the program lasted for a number of years with comparable success. Plans to re-establish the program at ZooDom have been halted since 1994 due to unfavorable institutional conditions
Citation: Ottenwalder, J. 1996. Cyclura ricordii. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 21 April 2014.
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