Conservation status of the Fijian crested iguana (Brachylophus vitiensis)

Peter Harlow

Subsequent to the discovery of the Fijian crested iguana (Gibbons 1981), the species was reported on a further 7 islands (Gibbons 1984). At the time Gibbons regarded the species as rare on all of these islands, with the exception of the island of Monuriki, where they were still "frequently seen". In October 1998, the Iguana Sanctuary ranger Pita Biciloa and myself conducted an intensive survey of Monuriki for the National Trust for Fiji: the total iguana population was estimated to be 40 - 80 individuals, and no juvenile recruitment was recorded (Harlow & Biciloa 1999). The reasons for this appears to be vegetation changes due to long term goat grazing and regular burning. This project aims to survey the other 7 islands where crested iguanas were recorded in the early 1980's, plus a further 10 uninhabited islands where anecdotal reports suggest iguanas may still survive. The Critically Endangered Fijian crested iguana (Brachylophus vitiensis) was discovered on the Fijian island of Yaduataba in 1979. The species was later recorded on a further seven islands but the Yaduataba population is currently the only protected group. Data on other island populations is limited to a recent survey of the island of Monuriki, where it is estimated that the surviving iguana population will become extinct within 5-15 years. This project aims to address the immediate and longer term conservation priorities for this species by searching for populations on 17 islands, assessing the threats, identify viable populations for inclusion in the national protected area system, produce an action plan and initiate a local training programme for Fijian locals and students to help ensure the long term monitoring of the species.