Iguana deaths investigation continues

Police are appealing to anyone to come forward who may have information about dogs in the area of the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park.

The request comes as officers continue their investigation into the deaths of seven endemic Blue Iguanas and the injury of two others over the weekend of 3-4 May.

‘Autopsies conducted by the Department of Agriculture indicated that five of the deaths are consistent with dog bites. However, human involvement is not being ruled out at this stage,’ said Carla Reid, chairman of the National Trust for the Cayman Islands.

Mrs. Reid was present at a multi-agency discussion held recently about the case. Other agencies taking part were the Department of Agriculture, Department of Environment, Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme, represented by Fred Burton, director, and John Marotta, senior warden.

Mr. Burton explained why marks consistent with dog bites were not immediately seen when the iguanas were found. Their skin is tough to puncture, but flexible enough to be pushed into the wound. Veterinarians saw the marks only when they handled the iguanas during the autopsies.

‘Officers are working hard on this investigation,’ said Chief Inspector Richard Barrow, RCIPS area commander, in a press release issued Wednesday.

‘We have spoken with a number of people who have, at this time, been ruled out of the enquiry. We have also examined several dogs, which have also been ruled out. At this point we are keeping an open mind about what may have happened and are keen to determine the circumstances that led to the deaths of the iguanas,’ Mr. Barrow said.

For this reason, officers investigating the incident are appealing to anyone with information to come forward. ‘Even something that may not seem significant could help with our inquiries,’ Mr. Barrow pointed out. ‘In light of the autopsy information, we would like information on dogs that were either seen in the area on the night of the attack or animals that frequent the area, whether accompanied by an owner or not.’

Mrs. Reid said the road off Frank Sound Road that leads to the Botanic Park is frequently used by people who go there for exercise in the evening or early morning. ‘They may have seen something and maybe this will ring a bell for them.’

The iguanas killed or injured were not free-roaming, Mrs. Reid pointed out. They were inside the captive facility inside the park. An attack by wild dogs in 2006 involved iguanas roaming free in the park.

In this case, all of the iguanas were in their pens when last checked on the Saturday afternoon. Dead and injured animals were found around 9am on Sunday when volunteers unlocked the gate of the captive facility.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Bodden Town Police station at 947-2220 or Crime Stoppers at 800-TIPS (800-8477). Callers to Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous, using a code name to claim any reward.

The National Trust is coordinating a reward fund in conjunction with Crime Stoppers and as of 9am Thursday morning the amount received was $7,710.

The Trust is the parent organisation for the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme, which was established in 1990 to increase the population of this endangered animal.