While we were visiting the Galapagos Islands the first animal we saw was a large yellow Galapagos land iguana on Baltra Island. We were told that this was a very rare sighting, and that land iguanas were usually only seen while visiting the Charles Darwin Research Center on Santa Cruz Island. Marine iguanas are much more common.
The reason that land iguanas are so rarely seen is because they are declining and in danger of going extinct. We were very excited to be able to see this one in the wild and get some good pictures.
The iguana we saw was a Galapagos land iguana and is the most widespread of the three species. These guys can be found on Santa Cruz, Isabela, South Plazas, Fernandina and Baltra Islands.
They went extinct on Baltra Island in 1954. This extinction happened in a very short period of time beginning in 1948 when they were commonly seen, through 1954 when there were none left. This was due to the combined effects of a World War II American airbase, introduced animals (like dogs, rats, goats and cats), habitat destruction and heavy traffic.
Thanks to a captive breeding program using Galapgos land iguanas from Seymour Island, and the eradication of cats, they are now reproducing successfully in the wild on Baltra Island once again. Hopefully sightings like ours will be more and more common as time goes on. It certainly was a wonderful welcome as we began our Galapagos adventures.