Found only on some of the islands in the Turks and Caicos, the Turks and Caicos Rock Iguana, Cyclura carinata, is the largest non-extinct indigenous land animal found in the country. Critically endangered, it’s estimated that there are only about 50,000 Turks and Caicos Rock Iguanas in existence.
Turks and Caicos Rock Iguanas tend to be of varying shades of green, sometimes with browns and grays, The largest can approach nearly 32 inches in length, although 16-24 inches is far more common. It’s easy to tell the difference between adult male and female iguanas, as males tend to be much larger and have elaborate dorsal spines. Younger iguanas look much more alike.
Tagged female iguana on Little Water Cay.
Habitat and Diet
Turks and Caicos Rock Iguanas used to live on all main islands in the country, yet today are only found on some of the smaller islands and cays.
Due to the iguanas being hunted for food by Taino aborigines and later on the introduction of dogs and cats to some of the islands in the Turks and Caicos, iguana populations and range is probably less than a twentieth of what it was previous to the year 700 AD, which was about the time when the Tainos arrived from the neighboring Hispaniola and Bahamas archipelago.
Iguanas tend to mainly eat plants, flowers and fruits, but are also known to eat insects, smaller lizards and crabs.
Iguana and burrow at a sandstone bluff at Half Moon Bay.
Turks and Caicos Rock Iguanas tend to make their burrows in one of three types of terrains. On
Little Water Cay (Iguana Island),
Mangrove Cay, and the other sandy islands, iguanas hollow out burrows either in the light soil or into the very soft marine limestone.
Chalk Sound National Park however, the tiny cays are almost entirely hard limestone, so iguanas adapt the natural small sinkholes and crevices as their homes.
Where to See the Turks and Caicos Rock Iguana
Running adult male Turks and Caicos Rock Iguana.
The best place to watch the iguanas is
Little Water Cay (Iguana Island), which is located close off the northeast end of Providenciales. Overseen by the Turks and Caicos National Trust, this cay has two locations with boardwalk trails, preventing harm to the iguanas and allowing for easy access.
Please do not stray off the beach or boardwalks, as you’ll likely crush the underground iguana burrows and nest.
Iguanas are some of the easiest wild animals to photograph. To get some great shots, try photographing them from their eye level. The iguanas on Little Water Cay are quite approachable.
Turks and Caicos Rock Iguanas are a critically endangered species and are protected by law. It is illegal to touch, take, feed or harass the iguanas or their eggs. Do not stray off the beach or boardwalks on the islands (Little Water Cay, Mangrove Cay, and Donna Cay) in the Princess Alexandra Nature Reserve.