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The only inhabitants on Allen's Cay are the iguanas. The only way to access the islands is by dinghy. Unfortunately, we didn't get in to the island because there was too much wind.
The Allen's Cay iguana is a large (to 1000mm total length) subspecies of C. cychlura. Only two breeding populations of this subspecies are known, on Leaf Cay and U Cay (also known as Southwest Allen's Cay; in the northern Exuma Island chain in the Bahamas. Probably less than seven adults also occur on Allen's Cay, but no evidence of breeding has been found there during 12 years of study
The native rock iguanas that live on Allen's Cay should NOT be fed, but almost everyone ignores that prohibition.
The rock iguana on the right is contrasted with a more colorful, wild but non-native iguana from Boot Key in the Florida Keys in the center. The rock iguana is a dark dirty color with shades of red around the head, dark legs and a criss-cross pattern to the skin. They have deep red eyes and a ridge of skin along the spine. They also have a third eye known as the pineal eye which may function to regulate the reproductive cycle.
The small segment of a photo from a tour group website inset on the left shows the great danger the iguana population is in from the tourists. They shouldn't be feeding the iguanas.
Updated Apr 4, 2011
Phone: (317) 983-1405 (iguana info)
The iguanas on Allen Cay are a rare and endangered species which is not found anywhere else in the world. The presents a problem for the Bahamian authorities because people like to visit the cay and see and feed the iguanas. I don't have a picture of the iguanas because the weather was such that we did not go ashore.
This is what the site on iguanas says about this cay:
"The only significant current threat to these populations is the removal of iguanas by humans. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that these cays offer good anchorage less than a day's sail from Nassau; for example, during March, 15-20 yachts and 1-2 native boats are anchored there each night. Regular reports of actual or attempted poaching are made to the warden of the Exumas Land and Sea Park to the south. In addition, iguanas are occasionally removed for exhibit purposes in Bahamian zoos, parks, and gardens. Illegal exploitation for international trade is undocumented, but probably occurs."
Current conservation programs
Since the island is uninhabited, there is no possibility of having someone living there to keep people from poaching iguanas (which is illegal as they are protected by law). The Bahamians don't have the money to pay someone to do that, nor the personnel. The nearest law enforcement is the officials at the Exuma Land and Sea Park, but they can't always respond quickly enough.
" Fortunately, signs erected on the islands explain the vulnerability of these lizards, and most visitors on yachts radio the authorities if anyone is seen harassing the iguanas. Unfortunately, visitors also enjoy feeding them unnatural foods. Long-term investigations of growth, survivorship, and population status of these iguanas are ongoing by J. Iverson, but a study of their reproductive ecology is urgently needed."
Updated Mar 11, 2006
In the middle between Leaf and Allens Cays is an anchorage. We went into the anchorage hoping to find a spot so that we could visit the iguanas. But Bob thought it was entirely too crowded, so we anchored off the western shore. This was perfectly OK as long as the wind wasn't from the west. It was too windy (but from the east) for us to get off the boat, so we eventually went south to the next cay in the chain. There were several other boats nearby.
We also saw a scuba boat come in from Nassau on a day trip. I heard from someone that they visited after this boat, and all the lobsters that they thought they saw turned out to be just the heads - the dives had taken the tails and left the heads.
Equipment: You will need a boat with a dinghy in order to go ashore on the islands. And of course you will need scuba or snorkeling gear to dive. You can't buy or rent it there. The URL has one way to access the island, but their activity of feeding the iguanas is illegal.
Updated Mar 11, 2006
Favorite thing: We didn't get to see the iguanas, and since Bob had a heart attack a little farther down at Shroud Cay we may not get back down this way again.
Visitors should not harrass or feed the iguanas. There is a limited breeding population and once they are gone, it will be too late to bring them back.
Written Jun 6, 2003