Tourists visiting Hell this week were horrified to be offered a chance to have their photograph taken with a trussed up green iguana.
A woman who works at the tourist attraction was charging visitors $1 to pose for a picture with the iguana. The iguana’s legs and mouth were taped up and the animal was taped to a piece of wood.
American visitor Roni Wildoner sent a photograph of the woman and the iguana to the Caymanian Compass, saying she was appalled by the treatment of the animal.
“In the United States where we live and are animal cruelty investigators, taping a live animal to a board and not allowing it access to food or water, especially in 85 degree heat, would be animal cruelty,” said Ms Wildoner, who is making her third trip. She added: “This woman was representing Grand Cayman and as a tourist and animal advocate, I find her exploitation of the iguana appalling.
“Grand Cayman is not a Third World country. Tourists spend a lot of hard earned money in this country and maybe some of it could be used to educate the people on the proper treatment of animals. Someone needs to do something to help this poor creature.”
Ms Wildoner, who is an animal cruelty investigator in Bergen County, New Jersey, photographed the woman wearing a handwritten sign around her neck and the bound iguana on the board, on Monday.
Green iguanas, which were previously protected under the Animals Law as part of a provision intended to offer legal protection to indigenous blue iguanas, are not native to Cayman and are considered pests. The Animals Law was amended in 2010 to remove protection of green iguanas.
However, under the law, it remains an offence to ill treat any animal, including green iguanas, and anyone convicted of animal cruelty is liable to a fine of $4,000 and imprisonment for one year.
Ms Wildoner said: “We have pest animals in the US as well, but you still can’t abuse them.”
The Department of Agriculture’s animal welfare officer Margaret Baldino spoke with the woman Thursday to advise her about the concerns over the animal’s welfare. “She said she’d no longer do it,” said Ms Baldino, who explained that the woman had not understood that tourists would react badly to the sight of the trussed up iguana, but instead thought she was giving visitors a chance to see an iguana up close.
“She didn’t realise it would be viewed so negatively,” said Ms Baldino. “She said people were fascinated by them and she was trying to do something to encourage their curiosity,” adding that the woman had said she tied up the iguana for the safety of the tourists who wanted to get a closer look at the animal.
Ms Baldino had earlier also advised a young man in the area to stop displaying another taped up green iguana.
The Department of Agriculture does not intend to prosecute the woman, Ms Baldino said.
Gilbert Connolly, chief executive officer of the Tourism Attraction Board, which manages Hell, said the matter had been brought to the board’s attention Wednesday. “We are taking corrective action to address it,” Mr. Connolly said.
Jane van der Bol of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association said: “The Cayman Islands strives to promote world class facilities and services and while the CITA does not ‘enforce’ any laws or regulations, it is my understanding that the Department of Agriculture, which has responsibility for animal welfare, is actively working on resolving this issue.
“As the activity is occurring in or around the Hell attraction, they are also working with the Hell attraction management to ensure this activity by outside vendors is stopped and does not occur in the future.”