Utila spiny-tailed iguana (Ctenosaura bakeri)

spiney tailed iguana

Swamper, the spiny-tailed iguana, can be found in the Flooded Forest in Tropical House.

Fast facts

Status Critically Endangered

Size Head to body length males: 80 cm; females: 56 cm

Weight Males: 900 g; females: 630 g

Gestation 85 days

Young 11-16 eggs are laid

What do I eat?

Utila spiny-tailed iguanas are mainly herbivorous, which means they mainly eat plants, but are also known to predate on insects and crabs.

Where do I live?

This species is only found on Utila, an island off the coast of Honduras. They are chiefly found in mangrove forests but have been seen in developed areas. Utila spiny-tailed iguanas use sandy shores with coastal vegetation for breeding. Adults are often seen in the mornings basking in the sun on the ground or in mangrove trees. They use hollows in mangrove trees as hideaways. The young move away from the coastal vegetation and into the mangrove forests soon after hatching.


Female utila spiny-tailed iguanas move to the shore after mating to nest. They make their nests in a range of places on the beach fronts, such as under leaf litter, underneath large trees and in shrubby areas. Their nests may be several metres long and up to 60cm deep.   


The young of this species have a large number of predators including great-tailed grackles, green herons, Mexican parrot snakes, green vine snakes and common spiny-tailed iguanas. Adults are known to be preyed on by common black hawks, great egrets and boa constrictors.


The main threats facing Utila spiny-tailed iguanas are habitat loss, due to development for the tourist industry, and unsustainable hunting for their meat and eggs. They are also at risk from introduced invasive plants damaging the quality of their habitat, and their nesting habitats being affected by pollution. The hunting of these iguanas is prohibited by law, but the law is not adequately enforced. This species is listed on CITES Appendix II, which means that the trade in this species or any of its parts is restricted. Several organisations are working to protect this species, including through educating local people about the lizards, and a captive breeding programme in which captive bred young are released at suitable locations.

Did you know?

Utila spiny-tailed iguanas will jump into the water around mangrove roots and swim or dive under the surface to avoid predators.

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We had a totally happy family - aged between 76 and 3 months - the monkeys, lemurs, giraffes, tigers and snow leopards were a major triumph.Carol, 26th June 2019