WATCH — Scientists spot rare baby pink iguanas for the first time

Aerin Murphy
Story by Aerin Murphy and CBC Kids News • Published 2023-01-25 06:00

Hatchlings born green, turn pink later in life

On a remote island in the Pacific Ocean, on the rocky slopes of a volcano, lives the only population of Galapagos pink land iguanas.

Now for the first time, scientists have seen their hatchlings and nesting sites.

Conservationists with the Galapagos National Park Directorate and the Galapagos Conservancy documented this discovery last month. 

The species is at risk of extinction, according to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List.

This discovery may give scientists the information they need to develop strategies for protecting the rare reptiles.

What is a pink iguana?

Pink iguanas are reptiles with a characteristic rosy hue, which comes from a lack of pigmentation, or colour, in the skin.

They look pink because the blood under their skin is showing through.

Only adults have this colouring — hatchlings are born green with striped bodies.

Hatchlings are babies that recently came out of their shells.

A pink iguana hatchling with the characteristic green striping of the species. (Image credit: Galapagos Conservancy/Galapagos National Park Directorate

They eat fruits and leaves, and can grow up to 47 centimetres in length.

That’s almost as long as five pencils.

The species is unique to the slopes of the Wolf Volcano, on Isabela Island in the Galapagos archipelago, or group of islands.

A graphic map zooms in from all continents on Earth into the small Isabela Island in the Galapagos.

What threatens the iguanas?

Galapagos pink iguanas’ small habitat is precariously located on an active volcano, making them vulnerable to extinction.

Rodents and wild cats prey on the iguana eggs and hatchlings, while poachers and wildlife traffickers pose an additional threat, according to the Galapagos Conservancy.

The Galapagos Conservancy estimates there are only 200-300 adult pink land iguanas left.

A conservationist holds an adult Galapagos pink land iguana. (Image credit: Galapagos Conservancy/Galapagos National Park Directorate)

Why scientists are hopeful

Setting up cameras near the iguanas’ nesting sites has given conservationists valuable insight into the threats these reptiles face.

This lets scientists develop more specific ways to protect the iguanas.

“If we hadn’t made this discovery … they could become extinct in a few years,” said Washington Tapia, the Galapagos Conservancy’s general director.

Click play to see these rare pink iguanas!

Check out these other animal news videos:

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With files from Reuters
TOP IMAGE CREDIT: Reuters with graphic design by Philip Street/CBC

About the Contributor

Aerin Murphy
Aerin Murphy
CBC Kids News Contributor
Aerin Murphy lives in Whistler, British Columbia. She enjoys swimming, sketching, cooking and spending time with her family and dog, Massi. Aerin loves learning about animals, science, math and architecture.

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