Title

Physiological effects of tourism and associated food provisioning in an endangered iguana

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1-1-2013

Abstract

© The Author 2013. Deliberately feeding wildlife is an increasingly popular tourism-related activity despite a limited understanding of long-term impacts on the species being fed. As a result, tourist behaviours that may have adverse impacts on imperiled species have often been encouraged without the necessary evaluation or oversight. Here, we report the responses of Northern Bahamian Rock Iguanas (Cyclura cychlura) to human-visitation pressure and associated food provisioning. We compared a variety of blood chemistry parameters of iguanas subjected to supplemental feeding at popular tourist destinations with iguanas occurring on islands where supplemental feeding does not take place. We demonstrate that male and female iguanas inhabiting tourist-visited islands where supplemental feeding occurs do not differ in body condition or baseline stress and stress response (determined by corticosterone levels) compared with iguanas from non-visited islands. Both males and females from tourist-visited sites experienced a greater incidence of endoparasitic infection and atypical loose faeces. Indicators of dietary nutrition, including glucose, potassium, and uric acid values, also differed for both sexes from tourist-visited and unvisited islands. Male iguanas from visited islands differed significantly from those on non-visited islands in calcium, cholesterol, cobalt, copper, magnesium, packed cell volume, selenium, and triglyceride concentrations, whereas female iguanas from visited islands differed significantly in ionized calcium. Although the interpretation of these differences is challenging, chronic biochemical stressors could compromise individual health over time or decrease survivorship during periods of environmental stress. We suggest protocols that can be adopted throughout the region to ensure that supplemental feeding has fewer impacts on these long-lived iguanas.

Publication Source (Journal or Book title)

Conservation Physiology

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