It’s not easy being green.
Since the removal of their protected status under the Cayman Islands Animals Law last year, the various breeds of green iguanas that have migrated here have been hunted, captured, killed and eaten.
Department of Agriculture officials, who have themselves released a booklet that contains iguana cooking recipes, confirm this is all perfectly legal.
But a recent situation in South Sound that involved a greenie being taped up for about seven days until it was discovered by a child in the yard of a home and freed has raised some concerns.
“[Restraining green iguanas] should be a temporary measure, and not for the animal to be kept like this long-term,” said the Ag. Department’s Maggie Baldino.
According to the South Sound home’s owner, who did not wish to be identified for this article, the greenie was one of three iguanas that had been captured in the yard of a neighbour’s home and restrained with duct tape on Sunday, 3 April.
This method of restraint is actually what is advised by the Agriculture Department.
“After capturing a green iguana, a method of restraint is to truss the legs behind its back,” Ms Baldino said. “[But] when a person chooses to taken an animal into their possession, whether it is a green iguana, feral chicken, livestock or family pets, they are responsible for its welfare and humane treatment.”
After the three iguanas were captured and taped up, they were apparently left that way until the home’s gardeners came to round them up. Two were killed on Wednesday, 6 April. The third apparently managed to slither off without the use of its legs and ended up in the neighbour’s yard where it remained until found on Saturday, 9 April.
The family that found it cut the tape loose and let the animal go.
“Allowing or causing an animal to suffer, neglecting or abandoning it is an offence in the Animals Law,” Ms Baldino said, adding that the department usual applies the ‘freedoms’ test when determining if animal cruelty has occurred. Those are freedom from hunger and thirst, from discomfort, from pain, injury and disease, from fear, and the ability to conduct their natural behaviour.
The Agriculture Department said it would continue to try and educate residents about the humane treatment of green iguanas and safe measures for their capture. It advises that gloves and thick shoes and pants should be worn during a capture as greenies will bite.
The department also gives tips on how to capture iguanas through the use of a noose or a baited cage, and further how to house the iguana when it is captured. It also gives tips on the most humane ways to slaughter them prior to cooking.
Legislators approved a change in the Animals Law last year that left only Cayman’s indigenous iguana species, blue and rock iguanas, on the protected animals list. The population of both native species has become a concern in recent years and scientists have fretted that green iguanas – which are prolific breeders – would dominate the food supply, pushing the blues out.
Residents have also long complained about the creatures pilfering garden vegetables and fouling pools on various properties.