USA Today reports that the blue iguana, considered alternately threatened and endangered, has been making an unprecedented come back after flirting with extinction. Native to the Caribbean, the long-tailed lizard population hovers around 500 total population.
First found and described by Oxford researchers in 1938, blue iguanas began to disappear from the Cayman Islands as farmers' roads and developments took root. Dogs and feral cats also decimated the population, according to the news source.
In 2002, conservation biologist Fred Burton, who heads the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, began the process of tallying how many lizards were on the island. Burton notes that blue iguanas "are striking animals, turquoise blue with red eyes...but they were almost a forgotten animal."
His team launched an animal rescue
effort for the iguanas. They began to breed the iguanas in captivity to learn more about them, and found that their taste for fruit led them to the orchards where farmers' cats and dogs preyed, the news outlet adds.
In 2002, according to the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, only 12 blue iguanas survived from the original wild populace. This alarming number made it one of the most endangered species on the planet.