If you see an emerald patch in a forest in Fiji, look again because it might be the critically endangered crested iguana. A brilliant green with three white stripes that are sometimes edged with black, these iguanas grow to 75cm long. Their distinctive crests are present from hatching and run the length of their backs. Each spine on the crest can grow to 1.5cm long. Thanks to their long, strong claws they are very good climbers.
The crested iguana is endemic to Fiji. It used to be found on 14 Fijian islands but now is found on only three, with 98 per cent of the population (less than 6000 animals) living on just one island ¬– Yadua Taba. The iguanas prefer dry forest habitats but are also found in coastal forests. They spend nearly all their time in the trees and rarely come down. Habitat loss, fires and competition and predation from feral animals such as goats and cats, has severely impacted this animal, and if Yadua Taba had not been declared a protected sanctuary, it is likely that the species would by now be extinct.
The crested iguana is herbivorous, eating leaves, shoots, fruit and flowers from trees and shrubs, particularly the Pacific hibiscus
Four eggs are laid in March to April in shallow burrows in the ground. The eggs have the longest incubation period of any reptile – up to 9 months, during which time the female guards the nest. After the rainy season, the hatchlings break through their leathery shells and the first thing they do is get a drink. They’re a very dark green when they emerge but within a few hours they have changed to bright green and look like miniature versions of their parents.