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Critically Endangered Pink Iguana Babies Found in the Galápagos Islands

Critically Endangered Pink Iguana Babies Found in the Galápagos Islands

#Critically #Endangered #Pink #Iguana #Babies #Galápagos #Islands Welcome to InNewCL, here is the new story we have for you today:

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Side by side photos of two iguanas

An adult pink land iguana is shown on the left and a juvenile on the right. The reptile’s coloring changes dramatically as it matures. Image: Reuters / Galápagos Conservancy / Gizmodo

Cracks bloom along the ovoid surface of an eggshell. First a small head protrudes, then the rest of a long, thin, scaly body. A pink iguana appears. No, it’s not a convoluted gender reveal – but it does signal the birth of hope for an endangered reptile. Researchers have found nest sites and hatchlings of the Galápagos pink land iguana for the first time.

Since the species was first described in 2009, conservationists have believed that the Galápagos pink land iguana would become extinct. Only adult iguanas, up to almost 4 feet long and a unique pale Pepto-Bismol hue, have ever been seen. Scientists couldn’t find any live young or nests, and the species was believed to be on the fast track to extinction – doomed to disappear with the last full-grown adult.

Now, however, the newly discovered underground nests and immature iguanas offer a more optimistic alternative. It has “given us our first hope of saving this enigmatic species from extinction,” said Paul Salaman, president of the Galápagos Conservancy, a nonprofit environmental organization working to protect the islands and iguanas, in a press statement. A joint team from the Galápagos National Park Directorate of Ecuador and the Galápagos Conservancy documented the nests and young using trail camera footage and personal observation.

But even with the lucky discovery, the fate of the species remains far from certain. Researchers estimate there are only 200 to 300 of the pink iguanas left, based on 2021 survey data. The rare reptiles are only known to inhabit a remote area less than 10 square miles on a slope section of Isabela Island’s Wolf volcano . And the iguanas face numerous threats in their barren territory, particularly predation from invasive feral cats and rats introduced to the islands centuries ago.

Conservation observers have previously observed feral cats eating young iguanas as they first emerge from their underground nests, according to the Galápagos Conservancy. To ensure the next generation lives on, the National Park and its partner organizations must continue their efforts to monitor and protect the iguanas. Part of this work will likely involve trying to eradicate the invasive cats. Efforts on Baltra Island in the archipelago have shown promising results for the conservation of another species of iguana, and cat eradication has been successful in certain sections of Isabela Island.

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The park and sanctuary have also pooled resources to set up a permanent field station to allow better monitoring of the iguanas and help protect against poaching, according to the press release.

The Galápagos Islands are home to a large number of endemic species found there and nowhere else in the world, including three species of land iguanas. Pink land iguanas were first seen by park rangers in 1986, but were initially believed to be mutant members of an already documented species. It wasn’t until more than two decades later that reptiles were officially recognized for the distinct animals they are.

The pink species diverged from its closest living relative about 5.7 million years ago, making its lineage the product of one of the oldest evolutionary splits known in the Galápagos Islands. When first hatched, the reptiles are light green with dark vertical stripes and spots. Over time, they mature into their characteristic hue. Their rosy coloring is not the result of a pigment, but rather a transparent skin through which their blood is visible. Thin-skinned or not, conservationists now know for certain that the pink iguanas have the resilience to last into the future.

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