Can The Bahamas Protect Wildlife From Waves Of Tourism?

Source: National Geographic/Sarah Gibbens

Photo: Jakob Owens/Unsplash


The heat that bears down on the Exuma islands in the Bahamas in the middle of spring can feel oppressive. Islands here are small and sandy, with small shrubs, short trees, and rocky cliffsides. Shade is hard to come by.

From almost any spot on an island, you can see turquoise water stretching into the horizon for miles. It’s easy to see why the Exumas attracted conquering seafarers hundreds of years ago, and why it attracts millions of tourists every year still.

They come for the pristine waters, the white beaches, and the elaborate resorts, but on the tiny islands that sit over a hundred miles away from the capital, Nassau, it’s often the iguanas, not tourists, who dominate the landscape.

“Cut him off from the other side,” yells Chuck Knapp, a scientist from the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago who has made a career out of studying iguanas in the Bahamas. He’s just spotted a large Bahamian rock iguana that rustled through the bushes, and he’s determined to catch it. Armed with large nets tied to the end of poles, other members of the aquarium’s staff circle a bush, spacing themselves out at an equal distance to prevent the nimble reptile from escaping.

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Photo: Jakob Owens/Unsplash

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