Lawmakers target unwanted iguanas
Greenies, your days are numbered.
The Cayman Islands government will
support changes to the Animals Law (2003 Revision) that make all iguanas living
here protected species. That means it is illegal to hunt or take possession of
any iguana, its eggs or its nest.
Legislators on Monday approved a
private members motion filed by opposition party MLA Alden McLaughlin that
would remove iguana species other than those indigenous to the Cayman Islands from the protected species list.
Only the blue iguana (Cyclura
lewisi) and the rock iguana (Cyclura nubile caymanensis) are native species in
the Cayman Islands.
However, the proliferation of both
species have been far outpaced in recent years by the green iguana on Grand
Cayman, an invasive species thought to have originated in Honduras.
The greenies are easily marked by
their black-ringed tails and are far more prolific breeders than the local blue
iguanas. A breeding female green can lay as many as 100 eggs in one year.
The creatures feast on local plant
life and other foodstuffs that are necessary to sustain indigenous iguanas, and
lawmakers are concerned they will move into the more remote eastern areas of Grand Cayman – which is where the blues now primarily
“If you see (green iguanas) in a
vegetable patch or a pumpkin patch…it’s amazing what they can do,” said
opposition party MLA Anthony Eden.
“They are causing immense damage to
gardens and cultivation as well as being a major nuisance,” Mr. McLaughlin
said. “They love pools. They come out, go for a swim in the pool, foul the
pool, and then lie around in the sun.”
Mr. McLaughlin said many might
wonder why the legislature simply didn’t change this law in years past. He said
the removal of protection for green iguanas was originally included years ago
as part of the National Conservation Bill.
That bill has never made it to the
Legislative Assembly for a vote.
“That legislation has run into
predictable and inevitable hurdles,” he said. “We do not know when that will
ultimately come to this house.”
Health Minister Marc Scotland said
his government will support the motion moved by Mr. McLaughlin.
“It’s much more than a nuisance at
this point,” he said, referring to the overpopulation of green iguanas.
However, Mr. Scotland said any move to take
greens from the protected list would have to be backed up by an education
campaign to make sure people would recognise the difference between blues and
rock iguanas and other non-protected species.
Also, Mr. Scotland said any greens that are
exterminated would have to be gotten rid of humanely. Cruelty to wildlife and
cruelty to animals are both criminal offences in Cayman.
“Whatever measures are taken to
cull the green iguanas must be humane,” he said.