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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Hunting Iguanas To Save A Butterfly

Biologist Jim Duquesnel gets up every day to do two things. First, find a Miami Blue Butterfly. Then, rid the Florida Keys of the Green Iguana, the invasive reptile he says is driving the Miami Blue to the edge of extinction.

Once a thriving species on Bahia Honda island, no one has seen a Miami Blue since July 2010.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the butterfly as an endangered species. The reason? The invasive Green Iguana has no predators in the Keys, its numbers are growing and it is eating the leaves of the Nickerbean Blue plant, the same leaves where the Miami Blue lays its eggs.

Duquesnel hunts the iguanas in the hope that if there are any Miami Blues left on the island, they’ll have a chance at survival.


  • Jim Duquesnel, biologist who runs the Miami Blue Recovery Project at the Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys

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  • Travis M


    Both you and your guest totally mispronounced the name of the island. The correct pronunciation is bah-EE-a OWN-da (CAPS indicate the syllable that should be emphasized.)

    • Jim D

      Too funny. It’s like I told Robin in our interview, while listening to her test the various pronunciations…  “if you want to start a fight at the bar tonight, start a conversation about how “Bahia Honda” should be pronounced. ”

      How about “Islamorada?”  EEZ-lah-mor-ah dah” anyone? You’ll get laughed at behind your back as locals wink… “obviously a tourist.”

      Wanna try “Cayo Huesa?” Our Anglicized corruption of the pronunciation completely loses the original meaning of the place name (Island of Bones). 

      I will leave it up to the folks at Websters and other dictionaries to figure out when popular use officially warrants adoption of a mispronounces place name.

      Many American place names are actually corruptions of names used by someone else.  I picked up the “BAY-ah hon-DA” version from my long-time Keys-resident hosts during my first visit back in 1977.  Decades later, I tried to change the way I say it – without any luck… it’s hardwired in.

      “Hah-va-NAH?” Or “HAY-va-nah?” Depends on whether you are in Cuba or Illinois. 

      See you at the chiki bar…  or is it CHEE-kee?

  • Laura

    I was shocked to hear on your station that Jim Duquesnel is capturing the Green Iguana, taking these animals from their homes, and either euthanizing them or turning them over to medical institutions for medical research.  That this behavior is allowed by the state of Florida is outrageous.  

  • Vicki

    I, too, was shocked to learn that the iguanas were being captured and euthanized or used for medical research.  I am certainly not a lizard lover, but these creatures, whether it is their original habitat or they were dumped by some ignorant pet owner, have every right to live out their natural lives in the wild — especially when Mr. Duquesnel can’t even guarantee that ridding the area of the iguanas will bring back the Miami Blue Butterfly.  How can a biologist condone such actions?

  • SCVA

    The way I see it, we can get rid of the lizards, or the humans who so thoughtlessly released them into a habitat they are destroying.  It’s the humans who can’t leave the iguanas where they belong in their natural ecosystems with natural predators.  Why should the butterflies have to pay for human stupidity, by dying out completely from their native habitat where they probably play a role greater than supplying pretty photos for this web page?  Every species, every day has to pay for human stupidity.  I’m glad this biologist is trying to restore this habitat because we don’t know enough to say that the butterflies are already gone, and they’re not worth saving anyway.  If the iguanas can no longer survive in captivity, blame the stupid pet owners who released them, and not the biologist who’s trying to do something worthwhile.

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