New hatchlings say hello to the world!

From my time working as a volunteer on this station, one thing that stands out is definitely the magic of the incubator!  The incubator is the home for iguana eggs until they reach the age when they are ready to leave the nest.

Iguanas have a mating season from February to March. From March to April iguana mothers travel all the way from the safety of mangroves to the beaches of Utila to lay their eggs into the sand. Iguana mothers lay from 6 to 24 eggs. However, the journey to the beach is not an easy one – even today one Honduran tradition and food delicacy on the island are iguanas and especially the mothers that are carrying the eggs inside of them. This is why hunters gather up to the beaches near February and March and try to catch the poor iguana mothers. What we do here on the station, is go to the mangroves before egg laying season and take the pregnant iguanas back to the station to wait until they lay their eggs and then release them back to the wild. This prevents hunters from killing the mothers, but also protects the eggs and ensures that as many eggs as possible survive.

Eggs of the iguanas that live here on the station and the eggs that are from wild iguana mothers are sorted into boxes that contain sand from the beaches of Utila to mimic the natural hatching process. The boxes are then introduced to the loving care of Incubator, where they spend around 90 days growing.



From July to August little iguana babies are ready to face the world and they start hatching.

Here on the station we keep a good eye on the eggs and at this time from July to August we are very busy taking care of the new hatclings. When the hatchlings are ready to pop out of the safety of their shells, we measure them (weight and length of the body and the tail) and take a DNA sample of their outer toes to mark them so that they can be recognized once released to the wild and also to conduct multiple DNA studies to gain more information about the Swamper of Utila (e.g. the differences between the populations of wild iguanas compared to the station iguanas, genetic tendencies etc.). We also check that the babies are healthy and mark everything out of ordinary down. The most common out-of-ordinary occurrence is that the umbilical cord is still connected to the baby. In these cases, we let the baby have a few days off before letting it go outside, to ensure that it has all the skills to enjoy its time outdoors!

On a good day, there might be as many as 40 new babies ready to be measured and weighed, and this takes fair amount of time due to the eagerness of the new babies to explore the office laboratory where we work. Sometimes just catching the little escapees takes a fair bit of our measuring time. After measuring they are released to the cages outside to get to know their brothers and sisters!

These hatchlings spend around one year at the station and are then micro-chipped and released to the wild.


~ by iguana321 on July 19, 2011.

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