Baby Pink Iguanas Finally Found After Decades of Searching

There are three things you need to know about the iguana species Conolophus marthae.

For one, the color of its peel resembles a can of grapefruit LaCroix. The second hangs on the edge of a volcano in the Galapagos Islands. Third, these pink reptiles, discovered in 1986 and classified in 2009, have been labeled as on the verge of extinction. Yet efforts to preserve them were quite complex.

The clan of the pink iguana is very mysterious to say the least.

Despite decades of searching, no one had ever found where they nestled. In fact, no one had even seen a baby; we only got approval from 200 to 300 adults. But these two elements – nesting habits and babies – are exactly what scientists need to know to help endangered animals, because protecting a species is protecting its breeding ground.

This brings us to the present.

On Monday, the Galapagos Conservation Authority said we’ve finally seen Pepto-Bismol iguana babies.

“Joint trips by the Galápagos National Park Directorate or GNPD and the Galápagos Conservancy as part of the ‘Iniciativa Galápagos’ identified the pink iguana’s first nesting site and recently photographed the first pink iguana cubs ever observed.” organization said in a statement.

Photograph of the first documented nesting site of pink iguanas.

GDP, Galapagos Conservation Area

Strangely enough, the cute little lizards don’t seem to have the iconic hues yet, which surprisingly comes from a lack of pigment, not a pink one. That coral body you see? Yes, you’re looking at their skin tone. But these pups still look like striped, neon bonsai dinosaurs playing hide-and-seek in the bushes.

A baby iguana with yellow-green and brown stripes is seen next to the tiny tiny leaves.

Baby (soon to be literally) pink iguana. This is one of the first photos of such a sweet little animal.

GDP, Galapagos Conservation Area

A baby iguana with yellow-green and brown stripes is seen on the branch of a tree, possibly trying to pick fruit.

More baby iguana pictures for you.

GDP, Galapagos Conservation Area

It feels like a pretty big moment for nature conservation – even the sanctuary’s press release headlined in bold, “Great Discovery Offers Hope to Save Critically Endangered Pink Iguana.”

It took more than 10 months for the expedition team, led by rangers Joganes Ramirez, Jean Pierre Cadena, Mari Yépez and Adrián Cueve, to find the pink iguana cubs.

Remember how these creatures privately held real estate next to a real volcano? It’s called the Wolf Volcano, and it last erupted in January.

The team had to walk for two days along the crevices in search of the last surviving population of pink iguanas. So when these elusive animals were finally located, the scouts also made sure to set up a group of hidden trail cameras around the area to catch what these guys and girls were up to.

The results were sadly as you can imagine.

“The documented predation of young iguanas, where non-native feral cats congregate in iguana nesting areas and kill kittens at their most vulnerable, is of great concern,” the press release says. “Young iguanas emerge from their underground burrows that spend their days digging, making easy prey for cats.”

A brownish-gray cat with black stripes on its legs looks like it has a baby iguana in its mouth.

Non-native feral cats prey on pink iguana cubs.

GDP, Galapagos Conservation Area

He goes on to suggest that this type of feline predation has hindered the uptake of pink iguanas into the adult population for more than a decade—perhaps explaining why scientists have had such a hard time keeping track of a few of these sunset-colored adolescents. It is particularly distressing to realize that these reptiles look deceptively menacing. In reality, they are primarily herbivores and their favorite food is prickly pear leaves and fruit.

However, it is a big step forward that we now know where to focus efforts to protect the nesting sites of the clove-pink crayon-coloured reptiles.

Also, the Galápagos Conservancy says it is funding the GNPD to install a permanent field station with 360-degree views of the volcano to help curb poaching and wildlife poaching.

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