• Brachylophus fasciatus

Fiji Banded Iguana adults are 136-193 mm SVL in size, while the hatchlings range from 65-83 mm SVL.
Also known as: Fiji Banded Iguana
Local Names: Vokai

Description

Fiji Banded Iguana adults are 136-193 mm SVL in size, while the hatchlings range from 65-83 mm SVL. Banded iguanas are generally more slender and smaller than their endemic relative the Fiji Crested Iguana, and have a smoother appearance. Banded iguanas have a single row of small scales, which look like a row of short sharp teeth running from their nape to the base of their tail, but on the Crested Iguana, these are much enlarged and form the crest from which it derives its name.

The main distinguishing feature between male and female banded iguana is that the females do not have bands on the body. The females have a uniform green colouring, with the occasional one having a very light whitish band, whilst males are obviously banded. The dorsal surface background of the males ranges from a bright to dark green with white bands on the side of the body. Tails of both females and males are encircled by alternating white and green stripes and they have a yellowish green chest and belly. Their eyes are reddish orange.

Distribution

The banded iguana is native to Fiji and was introduced to Tonga (approximately 300years ago), and is an even more recent introduction to Vanuatu (1960s). This iguana is widespread in Fiji, they are found in parts of Viti Levu, Vanua Levu, Taveuni, Kadavu, Ovalau, Gau, Koro, Viwa Island (Tailevu), Makogai, Banded iguanas are reported from many islands in the Lau Group but confirmation is required for many of these.

Habitat Ecology and Behaviour

Banded iguanas occur in coastal lowland forests, and are often associated with the ivi tree (Tahitian Chestnut, Inocarpus fagifer), and can also be found on other introduced trees such mango (Magnifera indica). There is limited ecological information available on wild populations, however extensive research has been conducted on captive individuals. Unlike their endemic and endangered relative, banded iguanas are omnivorous rather than herbivorous, feeding on plant leaves and the occasional smaller lizards and insects. Captive banded iguanas have been observed to engage in courtship and mating behaviour in November and females lay their eggs from January to early March. The egg shells are white and elliptic in shape, are laid in clutches of 3-6, arranged in a compact group within a burrow that is approximately as long as the female iguanas body. The incubation period ranges from 4-7 months or 125-210 days.

Threats

Habitat destruction through either by clearing or modification by goat grazing and fire; introduced predators such as the domestic and feral cats (Felis catus) and mongoose (Herpestes javanicus); and poaching are the primary threats to the survival of this species. The fact that the banded iguanas lay their eggs in burrows under ground increases their vulnerability to predation by feral cats, rats and mongoose. Banded iguanas are still occasionally found on islands with the mongoose such as Viti Levu and Vanua Levu but they are exceedingly rare and their long-term survival is doubtful in the presence of this carnivore.

Conservation Status

The banded iguana is currently classified as Endangered (IUCN 2007). Before the arrival of introduced mammalian predators, iguanas were probably common to very common on all islands with forest. Banded iguana eggs were cooked for consumption by Fijians, and as late as the 1870s early European travellers described their empty shells being hung in the houses as decoration. The Banded iguana is protected under the Endangered Species and Protection Act but there are no reserves or sanctuaries specifically conserving this species even though this was recommended by Bustard as early as the 1970s. A considerable body of captive breeding data and expertise has been built up at the Kula EcoPark and Taronga Park Zoo.

Remarks and Cultural Significance

The banded iguana is currently classified as Endangered (IUCN 2007). Before the arrival of introduced mammalian predators, iguanas were probably common to very common on all islands with forest. Banded iguana eggs were cooked for consumption by Fijians, and as late as the 1870s early European travellers described their empty shells being hung in the houses as decoration. The Banded iguana is protected under the Endangered Species and Protection Act but there are no reserves or sanctuaries specifically conserving this species even though this was recommended by Bustard as early as the 1970s. A considerable body of captive breeding data and expertise has been built up at the Kula EcoPark and Taronga Park Zoo.

References

Bustard (1970);
Cahill (1970);
de Marzan (1987);
Gibbons (1981), (1984);
Gibbons and Watkins (1982);
Graeffe (1986);
Harlow et al. (in press);
Morrison (2003);
IUCN 2007.

Front Page Photo: Paddy Ryan - a female (on the left) and male banded iguana from Kadavu, distinguishable by the absence of white bands from the female’s body.
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