The Fiji Crested Iguana is endemic to Fiji and is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN and few of the islands in the Mamanuca region have recently being surveyed to confirm the present population. In collaboration with the U. S. Geological Survey, San Diego Zoo Global, Taronga Zoo, the Mamanuca Environment Society field team had an opportunity to work with Adam Clause Ph.D. Student with the University of Georgia and Ahura Resorts Internee over the last two months surveying Malolo Levu, Ahura Resort leases and Qalito home to Castaway Island Resort. “It has been a great learning experience doing night survey, assessing iguanas , tagging and doing awareness presentation on the Fiji Crested Iguana,” said Koli, MES Technical officer.
The island survey is part of the ongoing project since 2010 the Ahura Group Resorts which includes Likuliku Lagoon Resort and Malolo Island Resort when the first Fiji Crested Iguana was found. Since then more collaborative work with the National Trust of Fiji and International conservation groups continued. Likuliku Lagoon Resort and Malolo Island Resort who are both member resorts of the Mamanuca Environment continue to raise awareness by erecting signboards in both properties and promoting its protection through staff and guest awareness program and presentations.
According to a recent report by Adam Clause and Steve Anstey- Ahura Resort Group General Manager, three subpopulations of iguanas have been identified on Malolo Island: one at Likuliku Lagoon Resort, one at Malolo Island Resort, and one at the Vunabaka development. In total, they have recorded 15 unique iguanas at Likuliku, six at Malolo, and 17 at Vunabaka. The majority of these iguanas have been DNA tested, fitted with subcutaneous Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tags, and undergone highly detailed morphological analysis. “We have also created a photographic portfolio, with nearly all of these 38 iguanas represented,” said Adam Clause.
Likuliku Lagoon Resort currently maintains a total of 11 wild-collected Fiji Crested Iguanas in a captive colony. These consist of eight reproductively mature adults (four male/female pairs), and three juveniles. All were originally collected from Malolo Island. The adults are long-term captives. The juveniles are being maintained until they reach a body size suitable for insertion of a PIT tag, after that they will be released to the wild, exactly where they were first captured. According to Mr. Anstey, there is no intention of expanding this colony to include additional wild-collected adults but hope to develop a long-term goal of these projects is to establish pilot programs for environmental restoration that can be exported across Malolo Island and the Mamanucas. To that end, the team has already accomplished supplemental work on neighboring leases of Malolo Island, and on other islands in the Mamanuca group, he added.
According to Ms Vakacola, MES Project Manager, MES conducted a Land use Management workshop last year with the Department of Forestry and Agriculture with the two villages on Malolo Levu, Yaro and Solevu highlighting the importance of the dry forest vegetation to this critically endangered species and how bushfires pose major threats that may lead to their extinction if not stopped. We have also included a section on Endemic species in our School environment program which give a brief background of the Fiji Crested Iguana and has assisted the communities with seedlings in support of the dry forest restoration project.
We hope to develop more community awareness toolkit on the Fiji created iguana with the assistance of our working partners, said Ms. Vakacola. We are grateful to the Ahura Resorts for their tremendous effort in spearheading the Fiji crested iguana project on their property over the years. Likuliku Lagoon Resort has constructed its plant nursery increasing more seedlings for Iguana edible plant species which are later replanted around the resort ridge areas.
More night survey will be conducted on Qalito Island in the coming weeks and hope to discuss further with the landowning unit and the Nadroga Provincial office on more awareness program focusing on best land use practices, highlighting the importance of the forest vegetation and plans for more surveys around Yaro and Solevu village with information shared with all stakeholders in the Mamanucas.