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Iguanas making a comeback on Galapagos

iguana
Iguanas are surviving on Galapagos thanks in part to reintroduction efforts  

(CNN) -- The endangered giant tortoise may be the best known symbol of the Galapagos Islands, but another reptile is also being brought back from the brink of extinction: the land iguana.

These giant lizards are found only in the Galapagos, off the coast of Ecuador in South America. Their populations plummeted after early settlers introduced new, domesticated species to the archipelago.

Many of these species, like cats, dogs and pigs, have affected the iguanas in various ways. They either prey on them, destroy their nests and eggs, or compete with them for the same plant foods, said Felipe Cruz of the Charles Darwin Foundation.

The problem was so bad on the island of Baltra, the iguanas there died out altogether.

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CNN's David George reports on a breeding program for the endangered reptile

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But today, they once again roam the island, thanks to a captive breeding program run by the Galapagos National Park Service and the Charles Darwin Research Station.

They've been breeding iguanas from a nearby island, iguanas that had been moved from Baltra as an experiment in the early 1930s.

"We have been very successful in breeding in captivity. We have learned a lot about how to breed them, how to raise them, what diet to give them," Cruz said.

But captive breeding alone won't ensure the survival of the iguanas. Controlling the predators is also important

"We've been able to eradicate the feral dogs that were threatening directly the iguanas as well as other species. And then we're controlling cats," Cruz said. "We're controlling those population in the areas where they are most susceptible to have an impact on other species."

Since the program began in 1976, more than 700 land iguanas have been reintroduced to Baltra and nearby islands.



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