Rosamond Gifford Zoo

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Hispaniolan Rhinoceros Iguana

Cyclura cornuta

The Rhinoceros iguana is among the heaviest iguanas. Once the largest animals occupying the Caribbean Islands, their only natural predators were birds of prey.

Range & Habitat

In the Wild: Rhinoceros iguanas are at home in the savannahs and dry rocky spaces of Haiti and the Caribbean. 

At the Zoo: USS Antiquities cave, Tropical River Exhibit

Conservation Status: Endangered

This population is currently declining. The Rhinoceros iguana is especially vulnerable to environmental and manmade threats, because their range is so small. These lizards are commonly eaten on their home islands because of accessibility and the generally poor economic status of the people that share these islands. Zoos are heavily participating in conservation efforts for these iguanas and they are protected from broad release into the pet trade.

Diet

In the Wild: various plants, invertebrates, small mammals and birds.

At the Zoo: herp herbs (specialized assorted vegetation), a variety of greens, carrots, bean sprouts, fruit, hibiscus flowers.

Life Span

In the Wild – 15 years; In Human Care – over 20 years

Fun Facts about the Hispaniolan Rhinoceros Iguana

  • Rhinoceros iguanas can reach up to 4 feet in length. 
  • Wild Pigs are an invasive species in the Caribbean Islands. They not only outcompete the Rhinoceros iguana for territory and food, but these pigs are known to eat entire clutches of 30 or more Rhinoceros iguana eggs. 
  • The Rhinoceros iguana gets its name from the horn-like protrusions on its head. More prominent in males than females, it is thought to be a defensive tool and possibly important in courtship.
  • The Rhinoceros iguana is essential to the ecosystems of the Caribbean Islands. Because of their largely plant based diet, the Rhino iguana is an important distributor of seeds.

Sources

Jolley, Wes. “Species of the Week - Rhinoceros Iguana.” Island Conservation, 24 May 2017, www.islandconservation.org/species-of-the-week-rhinoceros-iguana/. 

Mattison, Chris. Lizards of the World. New York: Facts on File Publications, Inc., 1989.

“Mona Rhinoceros Iguana.” International Iguana Foundation, 29 Aug. 2020, www.iguanafoundation.org/what-we-support/rock-iguanas/mona-rhinoceros-iguana/. 

“Rhinoceros Iguana: AMNH.” American Museum of Natural History, www.amnh.org/exhibitions/lizards-and-snakes-alive/sight-hounds/a-world-of-sights/rhinoceros-iguana. 

Rogner, Manfred. Lizards. Vol.2. Malabar, Florida: Krieger Publishing Co., 1994.

Pasachnik, S.A. & Carreras De León, R. 2019. Cyclura cornuta. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T6042A3099941. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-2.RLTS.T6042A3099941.en. Downloaded on 03 December 2020.

Updated February 14, 2021
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