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Crusing: Iguana in Exumas

The outlying Bahamas islands of the Allens Cay group offer a pristine, almost landlocked anchorage for yachts transiting between the Exumas and points west and north. One of them, Leaf Cay, is also the last refuge of the endangered Allens Cay Rock Iguanas
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Leaf Cay in the Bahamas is the last refuge of the endangered Allens Cay Rock Iguana

The outlying Bahamas islands of the Allens Cay group offer a pristine, almost landlocked anchorage for yachts transiting between the Exumas and points west and north. One of them, Leaf Cay, is also the last refuge of the endangered Allens Cay Rock Iguanas. With no natural predators and legal protection from human predation according to Bahamian and international law, these reptilian residents are entirely unafraid, willing to pose for close-up photographs with hardly a blink. A weathered sign warns visitors not to feed them, but many do—and occasionally get a finger nipped for their trouble.

Otherwise, the Allens Cay iguanas are docile herbivores, albeit relishing an occasional crustacean to enhance their menu. They play a role in the island’s ecosystem by pruning plants and disbursing seeds. The largest indigenous land animals in the Bahamas, Allens Cay Rock Iguanas (Cyclura cychlura inornata) are found nowhere else in the world and are considered one of the most endangered lizards. Sadly, the biggest threat to the colony is poaching, iguanas being a traditional source of meat for islanders. They’re also captured and sold to the pet industry. Left alone in their natural environment they can grow up to 5 feet long snout to tail tip, weigh as much as 25 pounds and live 80 years.

Photo courtesy of Tor Pinney 

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