Name Reveal: Jamaican Iguanas

May 8, 2024

The Jamaican iguanas at Lincoln Park Zoo have long represented the important conservation work that is happening on that Caribbean island to save a species once thought to be extinct. These scaly animals at Regenstein Small Mammal-Reptile House have become popular among zoo guests and zoolife subscribers, and today we’re excited to reveal the names given to them by zoo keepers!

The zoo is proud to introduce Edwin, Hope, and Hellshire, beautiful examples of the critically endangered Cyclura collei.

Edwin: Edwin is the longest, biggest iguana, with the largest head and jowls. He is named for Edwin Duffus, a conservationist who is credited with finding the first living Jamaican iguana on the mainland in 1990, 42 years after it had been declared extinct. Following the discovery, conservation programs were put in place to boost the population and Duffus continued to track the iguanas for years, eventually receiving the International Iguana Society Conservation Award.

Edwin Jamaican iguana

Hope: Hope is a mid-sized iguana whose appearance resembles that of her companion, Edwin. She is named for Jamaica’s Hope Zoo, which is the central location for the conservation program that has been essential to the survival of these lizards in their native habitat. The Hope Zoo’s program has released more than 500 iguanas into the wild.

Hope Jamaican iguana

Hellshire: Hellshire is a female, the smallest of the iguanas at Lincoln Park Zoo. She is named for the part of the Portland Bight Protected Area in St. Catherine Parish called Hellshire Hills that features a dry limestone habitat supporting Jamaican iguanas and other endangered native species.

Hellshire Jamaican iguana

Why Jamaican Iguanas Matter

Jamaican iguanas are among the 27 reptile species endemic to Jamaica, and the largest terrestrial animal in the island country. Their importance lies in the way they help germinate Jamaica’s forests. They eat fruits and vegetables, and the seeds in their waste return to the earth and grow quickly, adding to the area’s biodiversity. The dry forests the iguanas live in are a vital part of Jamaica’s economy, as they help to maintain limestone aquifers that provide ground water along the south coast.

Over time, however, iguana populations have been reduced by human development, hunters, predators like mongooses, and domestic or feral pets. They were declared extinct in 1948, but Duffus’ discovery changed the species’ outlook. Within the last three decades, conservation programs like the one at Hope Zoo Preservation Foundation have worked to save the species. These include head-start programs, designed to give adults released into the wild an advantage. To date, more than 700 individuals have been released into the wild as part of this recovery effort.

What’s in a Name?

Have you ever wondered how Lincoln Park Zoo decides what to name the animals in its care? In fact, there’s policy that governs naming, to make sure all animal names align with the values of the institution. Our goal is to generate respect for and a connection with wildlife when animals are named—and to be able to tell their stories in an interesting yet ethical and inclusive way. With that in mind, names may come from a number of different sources. Donors, volunteers, and staff may all be part of the process.

For example, some animals may be named after real people. Others may be named for a behavior or something related to an animal’s natural history: think of the beavers—Chewy, Chipper, and Slappy. On occasion, animals get geographic names relating to their native ranges, elements of their habitat, or the conservation work Lincoln Park Zoo does in the region. The gorillas Djeke and Mondika were named after sites that are part of the Goualougo Triangle Ape Project, where zoo scientists learn more about gorillas and chimpanzees in a pristine forest environment in the Congo Basin every day.

Some words may be in another language—like “Pilipili,” the word for “pepper” in Swahili that was given to the lion cub born in 2022. When this is the case, all words are vetted as much as possible by native speakers who are also conservation partners. For example, the names of the lion cubs born in 2023—Lomelok, Pesho, and Sidai—were given to the cubs by members of the Ilchokuti, the on-the-ground lion guardians employed by zoo partner KopeLion.

Even when individuals come to us already named, they may go through naming approval procedures so that the name is vetted by representatives from different departments and working committees, conservation experts, and others.

Visit the Iguanas!

If you can’t stop by Regenstein Small Mammal-Reptile House anytime soon, the Jamaican iguanas are viewable through zoolife. Just go to and start watching for free to see what they’re up to from anywhere in the world.

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