On 7th April 2017, the Minister of Tourism, Hon. Ralph Higgs joined the National Trust as they prepared for the launch of the Darwin plus Initiative entitled ‘Saving the Iguana Islands’.
The National Trust in partnership with other stakeholders including the Department of Environment and Coastal Resources, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds(RSPB), San Diego Global Zoo and Department of Agriculture amongst others, have, over the years diligently work to conserve the endemic Rock Iguana, and other native reptile species to secure a future for these unique and highly threatened species – which are iconic for the Turks and Caicos Islands and serves as a major attraction for both locals and visitors alike.
The project has received support from the Darwin plus Initiative in the form of £200k with £170k matched funding by RSPB and San Diego Zoo Global for a three year period. The organizations will collectively work to improve and control alien invasive species on Little Water Cay (‘Iguana Island’), particularly rodents and feral cats which are a threat to the iguana populations. Biosecurity for Little Water Cay and Big Ambergris Cay will also be designed to ensure that these invasive species and other potential harmful species do not become established and threatened the iguanas and other native reptiles.
Minister Higgs in his remarks stated; “My love, respect and admiration for the work and successes of the National Trust is well known and documented, the Darwin Initiative has the experience to make the Rock iguana project in TCI a resounding success.”
The Darwin Initiative funds projects that help countries rich in biodiversity to meet their objectives. Projects typically address threats to biodiversity such as: over-exploitation, invasive species, habitat degradation and loss, climate change mitigation and adaptation and pollution.
The Minister confirmed the Ministry’s and Government’s continued support to projects such as these and also indicated his desire to see the Trust and Darwin Initiative partner on future projects.