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The Blue Iguana website has modified the “You Can Help” --> “Donation Options” to now include a “Relief Donation” button. This supports any amount of donation.




September 16, 2004

Note from Barbara:
For fifty years, my family has been involved with a small Cayman island called Cayman Brac. Less than a year ago, we gifted to The National Trust for the Cayman Islands nearly inaccessible land in a jungle-like setting that has the only fresh water pool on the island. Here, rare Cayman parrots breed as well as other wild life. My family has been encouraged that The National Trust will never sell that land. Thus, the rare birds and animals will have a chance to continue living peacefully on our planet.

During the process of gifting, my family was linked to John Binns who is involved with the Blue Iguana Recovery Program begun in 1990 by The National Trust for the Cayman Islands. The program raises blue iguanas on Grand Cayman Island and prepares them for release into the wild.

When Hurricane Ivan roared across the Cayman Islands a few days ago, communication was cut to the islands. My family worried about Cayman Brac, and we decided to contact John Binns to ask if he had news of the islands. We located him in Arizona.

He said he was worried whether the blue iguanas had survived the hurricane, and that he had been waiting four days for transportation to become available for him to fly to the Cayman Islands. He said news would be relayed to us if anyone was able to phone him from Grand Cayman.

And yes! He did receive a phone call. The news about the blue iguanas was good!

Here is e-mailed news. I have paraphrased a bit and changed some wording for clarity's sake.

John said his friend Fred called from Grand Cayman to confirm he, Matt Goetz from Durrell Wildlife, and Nick Lewis are all OK. Fred’s house had sustained some damage and had water throughout. Fred’s small rental house closer to George Town sustained roof damage and other water damage. Fred said wind speed was recorded at over 200mph during the storm.

Fred did not have any news about Cayman Brac or Little Cayman, though the news agencies are reporting those islands faired well.

Early today, Fred, Matt and Nick made their way toward the Botanic Park along the southern coast highway to assess the reptile facility damage and status of the iguanas. This was their first opportunity to venture into the area. Given the destruction around them, they feared the worst for the iguanas. Travel was hampered because much of the road is underwater, littered with fallen trees, debris from destroyed homes, many of which are either gone or buried in sand. Low lying areas along the coast were particularly difficult to navigate but improved after the turnoff onto the road that passes by the park. Turning down the road leading into the park, the road from there was littered with debris and barely passable. However, as the road turns into the parks final entryway, they were forced to stop due to fallen trees that completely covered any sign of the road. Leaving the truck, they began to hike in, climbing over fallen trees making the normal 15 minute walk from the park's gate, a hurried 45 minute struggle to reach the facility.

As they made their way, the first good sign was the park's ranger shack was still erect as well as the free standing restrooms. Finally, inching their way ahead ,they reached the iguana facility. As they entered the open area, a true miracle lay before them. The old cages to the right were still standing and in front of them, the new cages were still tightly packed together in the same location they were moved into prior to the hurricane. Thethree split up to check the status of the iguanas in each area. Quickly moving around the bundled new cages, the 2 year olds all appeared to be fine but hungry. Approaching the large cement pens, Fred saw that the water level in the pens was still high and he first feared the animals had drowned. But the sinking feeling was quickly relieved with the sight of "Billy" clinging to the main trunk of a palm with his tail in the water. Looking around the other pens, some of the other adult iguanas could be seen high in the tall shrubs and old “Hal” atop a large rock. As Fred approached “Carley’s” pen, she sighted Fred and immediately dove underwater and made her way to her completely submerged retreat. Status of the animals and hatchlings in the older cages was also good news, all were OK. To the best of Fred’s knowledge, all the iguanas survived. The status of the free-ranging iguanas near the facility: “Biter”, “Slugger”, “Red-White”, “Yellow”, “Forest” and others is not known at this time.

Their next task was to detach the support braces from the new cages and move them back into somewhat even rows so the animals in the inner circle could be checked and all could be fed. The individual hatchling cages in the fenced area were also unbundled and placed back on their stands. Once cages were somewhat back in order, food was collected and though the quantity or selection was not up to par, he said none of the iguanas seemed to picky today.

Considering the facility is an open patch of space, the Gods protected the iguanas during this hurricane. Not one fallen tree or flying object impacted any of the cages, whereas the rest of the island suffered severe devastation, not a 100 yards away.

John's e-mailed news continues: Feeling much relieved, as I’m sure others do who feared the worst, Fred now faces the next challenge of caring and keeping these animals healthy. The entire island is devastated. There are many homeless, without power, no water, food is being rationed, gas stations are closed or destroyed, and the economic infrastructure is at a standstill. In essence there is only humanitarian focus and from all accounts, it’s going to be months before there is any real sign of recovery. To put this in perspective, Fred’s neighbor ventured into George Town today and returned ill from the sight of destruction and the destroyed homes of their friends along the way. As Fred chopped up available firewood to cook tonight's meal, he said though his house sustained damage, he was counting his blessings for his good fortune.

With the island focusing on life support, there are no plans to clear the road into the Botanic Park and there is no warden to manage the animals. In discussing the issue with Fred, it was clear now is not the time to consider bringing a team to restore access into the facility, since life support and accommodations on the island are already insufficient and probably will be for some time. What we eventually settled on was I would continue to attempt to reach Grand Cayman as soon as possible with the food supplies the IRCF has purchased. Once there, I would either camp at the facility for 3 or 4 days maintaining the animals, then making my way back out to replenish supplies at Fred’s or if transportation allowed stay at Fred’s, which at this time is rather doubtful. This would allow Fred to make minimal repairs to his home and conduct community service that is desperately needed. I asked if there was anything he needed, his reply was: garbage bags and water buckets.

 I relayed the many well wishes from everyone to Fred and brought him up-to-date on our relief efforts and those of others to support the Blue iguana program in it’s time of critical need. Needless to say, his spirits were lifted upon hearing the number of people concerned for his safety and the efforts of those who were promoting relief efforts, and his gratitude for those who have donated. He wanted me to relay a very sincere thank you to all. In a somber conclusion to our conversation, he said: “John, it’s going to take considerable resources to get this program’s infrastructure on it’s feet. We can be grateful the iguanas are OK, but the task of recovery is now much more of a challenge than we faced before”.

 The Blue Iguana website has modified the “You Can Help” --> “Donation Options” to now include a “Relief Donation” button. This supports any amount of donation.

 A list of other websites supporting the Blue Iguana relief effort is being drafted for distribution. If anyone receiving this bulletin is interested in supporting this effort on their website, please contact Sandy at: for an information package.

Thank you all for your continued support!