Grand Cayman Island Adventure Part II: Blue Dragons!

I was very lucky…

In February 2008, I went with a group of my friends to the QE II Botanic Park on Grand Cayman Island.  Since I love gardening, I always get excited about touring botanical parks, and this was a GREAT one.  But it was about to get even better!

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Caroline and friend

The QE II Botanic Park is also the home of the Blue Iguana Recovery Program. I knew about the program from my friend Janis (a former Reptiles Alive animal keeper) who now works as a Keeper at the National Zoo Reptile Discovery Center.  The National Zoo is a partner with the Blue Iguana Recovery Project, and maintains a breeding colony of them right here in Washington DC.   A few years ago,  the Zoo sent Janis to Grand Cayman to help out with the iguana program and learn more about Blue Iguana natural history and husbandry.

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Blue Iguana

While touring the Botanic Garden, we came upon the public area of the Blue Iguana enclosures. They were fantastic – the iguanas had tons of room to roam, bask in the sun, dig in the ground and just act naturally. I was thinking things couldn’t get any better when John the Iguana Warden noticed my Reptiles Alive shirt and started chatting. He invited my group into the “behind the scenes” area and we got a great tour of the facility!

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Inside the dragon’s lair

The staff and volunteers are totally dedicated to the care and comfort of these endangered reptiles. From the newly hatched iguanas to the old adults, all the animal receive top-notch care – the Botanic Garden even grows the native plants that the iguanas eat.

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Beautiful Blue Iguana

After the tour, John invited me to come back the next day and spend more time learning about the iguanas. That day, I met the director of the project, Fred Burton. Fred was a total expert on both the iguanas, the plants, and the ecology of Grand Cayman Island. He graciously took time out of his super busy schedule to spend time showing me more of the park and teaching me about the iguanas.

To learn more about the Blue Iguana Recovery Project, visit http://blueiguana.ky

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Fred and the iguana

So, the moral of the story is: Wear your Reptiles Alive shirt when traveling! You never know where it might take you…

Grand Cayman Island Adventure Part I: Creatures of Paradise

In February 2008, I went on an island adventure dubbed “Damas Locas” by my friend Kathy Stolzenburg.

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Welcome to Grand Cayman!

We explored the beautiful Grand Cayman Island on land and in the water.

While snorkeling, we saw amazingly colorful schools of fish, sting rays, a sea turtle, and even loads of live conchs!

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Live Conch

Conch are threatened in most of the Caribbean due to overfishing – but on Grand Cayman you can really find lots of them grazing on the submerged aquatic grass beds. After finding one and showing it to my friends who weren’t keen on snorkeling – I swam back to the same spot I found it, and let the conch go right where it belonged.

I love snorkeling and seeing all the wildlife that lives below the water – but some of those critters are venomous! Like brain corals that can sting if they are touched. It is always a good idea not to touch wild animals, whether a bear or coral, hands-off is the best policy. Of course, sometimes it’s hard to keep your knee off the coral in a shallow sea.

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Brain Coral Tattoo on my Knee

While searching for snakes on land, I found a critter that gave me a scare – I actually fell backwards after lifting a piece of plywood and finding this big guy:

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Yikes!

Of course, what I always am looking for when I travel are herps: reptiles and amphibians. Here is a herp that decided to hang out at our house:

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Cuban Treefrog

And I found a familiar face:
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Caroline and Cayman Island Snake

I get extremely excited when I find a snake (or any herp) that I have never seen before. These mildly venomous Cayman Island snakes are one of only two species of snakes found on Grand Cayman. I had never even known about this species, let alone seen it before! I was ECSTATIC to find and photograph these awesome snakes.

Anole lizards make up part of the diet of these snakes.

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Anole on Grand Cayman

But the BEST herpetological part of Grand Cayman Island was yet to come…

Stay tuned for Grand Cayman Island Adventure Part II: Blue Dragons!

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Kayaking the Carribean