If you see an emerald patch in a forest in Fiji, look again because it might be the critically endangered Fijian crested iguana. A brilliant green with three white stripes that are sometimes edged with black, these iguanas grow to 75cm long. Their distinctive crests are present from hatching and run the length of their backs. Each spine on the crest can grow to 1.5cm long. Thanks to their long, strong claws they are very good climbers.
The Fijian crested iguana is endemic to Fiji. It used to be found on 14 Fijian islands but now is found on only three, with 98 per cent of the population living on just one island – Yadua Taba. They prefer dry forest habitats but are also found in coastal forests and spend nearly all their time in the trees and rarely come down. Habitat loss, fires and competition and predation from feral animals such as goats and cats, has severely impacted this animal.
The Fijian crested iguana is herbivorous, eating leaves, shoots, fruit and flowers from trees and shrubs, particularly the Pacific hibiscus.
Four eggs are laid in March to April in shallow burrows in the ground. The eggs have the longest incubation period of any reptile (up to 9 months) during which time the female guards the nest and after the rainy season, the hatchlings break through their leathery shells. The hatchlings are very dark green when they emerge but within a few hours they change to bright green and look like miniature versions of their parents.