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Blue Iguana

Over the last two million years, parts of the Cayman Islands remained continually above water despite dramatic fluctuations in the global sea level. During that time, the islands were gradually colonised by animals and plants from the neighbouring Greater Antilles, particularly Cuba and Jamaica, and also from Central America and the eastern Caribbean. As time passed, many of these evolved into species and subspecies unique to the Cayman Islands.

At one time the forests of Cayman abounded in tall mahogany and logwood, but today the trees are of much smaller varieties: coconut, thatch palm, seagrape, almond and casuarina (Australian pine). Breadfruit, papaya, avocado, citrus, mango and naseberry are the predominant fruit trees.

Several commercial crop and livestock farms are in operation, and backyard gardens yield a wide variety of produce, including citrus, bananas, plantains, mangoes, yams, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, cassava, watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumbers, green and hot peppers, tomatoes, leafy vegetables, and coconuts.

Tropical marine life of all kinds are found in the Caribbean waters surrounding the Islands, especially in Cayman's coral reefs, known worldwide by scuba divers who claim the Islands offers some of the best scuba diving in the world.

The green turtle, for which the Islands were once named Las Tortugas, is still found and fished (in season, by licence and for local consumption only). The Cayman Turtle Farm breeds the turtle and markets turtle meat locally. Turtles are released into the wild each year as part of the farm's conservation role.

On shore there are few indigenous animals. The agouti (a large rodent), bats, harmless snakes, small lizards, freshwater turtle (the hickatee), land crabs and two species of tree frogs are the most common. Grand Cayman's rare and endangered Blue Iguana can be viewed at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. The green iguana, an invasive species, is considered a pest.

More than 180 species of birds have been identified in Cayman. Among the most predominant are the Antillean Grackle, the smooth-billed Ani, and many species of heron, including the Green-backed Heron, the Yellow-crowned Night Heron, and the Snowy Egret. The common Ground Dove, the Bananaquit and the Cayman Parrot, Cayman's national bird, also abound.

Last Updated: 2011-08-04