If you’re hooked into the running community, you may already have heard: this year’s Run for the Zoo logo features the Jamaican iguana, the largest land animal native to that tourist-friendly country. The iguana’s image will appear on this year’s T-shirts and the Supporter Medal, a beautiful keepsake you can get for a $25 donation.
But why did we choose to spotlight Jamaican iguanas for the 45th annual race? It’s simple. These intriguing iguanas represent a successful and ongoing conservation success story that shows exactly why the work done by institutions like Lincoln Park Zoo and its partners is so important now and in the future.
Jamaican iguanas are vital seed dispersers that have helped turn Jamaica into a beautiful place to live in and visit. By the 1940s, they were considered extinct, thanks in part to the introduction of predators to their fragile island habitat. However, individuals were discovered in 1970 and 1990, leading conservationists to put measures into place to safeguard the animals that remained. Since the mid-1990s, “headstarted” iguanas have been raised in human care until they are old enough to overcome many of the dangers they experience in the wild.
Today, there are more than 300 individuals in the wild Jamaican iguana population, but these critically endangered animals still need some human assistance, which is why work continues to increase their numbers.
Lincoln Park Zoo is home to a pair who illustrates exactly how charismatic and cool these creatures are while also emphasizing the conservation and care that happens at the zoo every day. You can visit them at Regenstein Small Mammal-Reptile House.
To learn more, check out “J for Jamaican Iguanas,” part of the zoo’s YouTube Series ABCs of the Zoo, below:
And if you’re interested in supporting these stunning reptiles directly, consider signing up for Run for the Zoo, a fun and inclusive 10K/5K run/walk that allows people of every ability level to raise funds for the zoo. It takes place Sunday, June 4.
Put together a team, recruit your friends and family, and enjoy a day of healthy activity along the lakefront! Younger participants can join the Kids’ Course, designed specifically for children between the ages of 3–8. Your whole group can enjoy the zoo and show your love for it at the same time!