Open season on greenies

TOPOpenseasongreeniesLEAD

Cayman may soon have fewer
foreigners due to a change approved Monday by the Legislative Assembly.

The measure is aimed at those with
bright green and pebbly skin, yellow eyes and black-ringed tails.

Lawmakers unanimously approved an
amendment that specifically defines protected iguanas under the Animals Law
(2003) as Cayman’s two indigenous species: the Blue Iguana on Grand Cayman and
the Rock Iguana on the Sister Islands.

Previously, the law protected all
iguanas in the Islands, a move that was partially blamed for allowing the
proliferation of the various invasive green iguana species from Central America.

It will soon be legal for residents
to kill greenies, once Governor Duncan Taylor assents to the bill. However,
Environment Minister Mark Scotland said anyone caught doing so inhumanely would
be punished under the cruelty to animals section of the Cayman Islands Penal
Code.

A motion urging the government to
change the section of the Animals Law (2003) was brought to the House last year
by George Town MLA Alden McLaughlin.

Precisely why such a measure had
not been brought up for a vote in years past was unclear. Mr. McLaughlin said
the removal of the protection for green iguanas was originally included years
ago as part of the National Conservation Bill.

That proposal has still never made
it to the Legislative Assembly for a vote. However, public meetings on a
revised National Conservation Bill are now being held around the Islands.

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 reside.

“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 during last year’s debate.

“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. Scotland said last week that he
agreed with those sentiments and that, in his view, green iguanas are much more
than a nuisance. However, he said other issues still need to be worked out in
the law – such as regulating the use of non-indigenous iguanas for meat.

“Nothing regulates this process
now,” he said.

Mr. Scotland said the Department of
Environment would also embark on a public education campaign that would assist
people in distinguishing between blues and greenies on Grand Cayman.

TOPOpenseasongreeniesSTORY

A Green Iguana hides under a car tyre.
Photo: File
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