In 1993, an international workshop on the biology of West Indian Iguanas was organized in Kingston, Jamaica, and held in conjunction with a Population and Habitat Viability Analysis for the recently rediscovered Jamaican Iguana. Field biologists, academic researchers, zoo professionals, and government policy makers from throughout the West Indies and abroad attended the workshop. This represented the first time that so many professionals with a strong interest in the survival of West Indian Iguanas had gathered to share their expertise and concerns. From this meeting the roots of the Iguana Specialist Group were formed.
The IUCN SSC Iguana Specialist Group (ISG) was officially recognized in 1997 and originally termed the West Indian Iguana Specialist Group with the focus of conservation on the genus Cyclura. In 2000, the ISG published West Indian Iguanas: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan (pdf) a document that continues to guide priorities and efforts in the Caribbean region. In the same year (2000), the group expanded its mandate to incorporate all taxa in the family Iguanidae including the Marine Iguanas (Amblyrhynchus), Melanesian Iguanas (Brachylophus), Galapagos Land Iguanas (Conolophus), Spiny-tailed Iguanas (Ctenosaura), Desert Iguanas (Dipsosaurus), Green Iguanas (Iguana), and Chuckwallas (Sauromalus). The inclusion of additional iguanid taxa has allowed the ISG to gain increased coverage and conservation attention for all 45 species of iguana. This expansion has also broadened the ISG membership to include nearly 100 members from over 20 countries who support the mission of the ISG and IUCN Species Survival Commission to conserve iguanas and their habitats across the globe.
The ISG holds an annual conference that brings together a diverse group of participants involved in the conservation of iguanas to facilitate collaboration among programs. A list of participants, dates, and locations of these conferences can be found under the ISG Meeting History tab. In 2000, the ISG was invited to hold its meeting in San Salvador, The Bahamas, to participate in a workshop to develop the Protected Areas Management Strategy for Bahamian Terrestrial Vertebrates: Iguanas and Seabirds. Since then, the ISG has combined its annual meeting with workshops to create a Species Recovery Plan, Conservation Action Plan, or Conservation and Management Plan for the species of concern in the host location. Participants in the workshops include educators, research scientists, land developers, government officials, protected area planners, park wardens, and natural resource managers. The content of these plans reflect the broad and varied expertise of the participants, resulting in well-rounded strategies for conservation that delineate objectives, specific results, action steps, responsibilities, and timelines for completion. These plans, published by the ISG, often serve as primary documents to guide conservation activities for iguanas in the region. Plans are available for download under the Publications tab.
One of the major roles for SSC Specialist Groups is to provide information to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species for the taxa under their purview. The Red List is the most comprehensive database of the conservation status of plant and animal species worldwide. The database documents species biology, research, threats, human use, and conservation needs and actions, all of which are evaluated against a defined set of criteria to determine extinction risk. Members of the ISG are currently working to bring existing assessments up to date as well as generate new entries for species that have not yet been evaluated (58 total Iguanidae taxa).