The life of a green iguana in the Cayman Islands can be a tough one.
This was highlighted after a green iguana was seen bearing similarities to Cayman’s endemic blue iguana. The greenie appeared to have been captured, painted blue and then released. The iguana has been roaming the car park of Pizza Hut and the nearby gas station on West Bay Road for the past 10 day or so.
Dr. Karen Rosenthal, dean of St. Matthew’s University veterinarian school, said, “It’s such a wrong thing. Even if people decide that the green iguanas need to be eradicated, that is one thing, and there are humane ways to get rid of an invasive species, but this is just animal abuse.”
“I think this is the same as painting a cat or a dog blue,” she added.
Prior to an amendment to the Animals Law in 2010, green iguanas were a protected species, but the change to the law removed that protection. Local veterinarian Dr. Andreea Sleahtenea described the incident as a “nasty case of animal cruelty.”
“I know they are not the most loved animal on the island, but it is really cruel to them to paint them like that,” she said.
“From a health point of view, I would say that is really toxic to his skin. They rely a lot on heat to regulate their temperatures by staying in the sun, so I don’t know how this paint would affect this. We would be happy to rinse him off at the vet and help him if someone is able to bring him in,” she added.
This is not the first case of cruelty to the migrant reptiles. In 2011, a green iguana reportedly was found bound in duct tape in a South Sound yard. The following year, tourists reported that they were being offered a chance to be photographed with a green iguana taped to a piece of wood in Hell in West Bay.
Dr. Rosenthal said that if the paint was of higher toxicity, the perpetrators would have “slowly killed” the iguana by way of poisoning.
“These may be invasive, but they are still animals. The capture and handling had to be incredibly stressful for a wild animal, and then to put paint on the animal, and we don’t know even know what was in the paint. It could have been toxic. The iguana’s natural instincts will be to try to scratch it off, or ingest it, which could cause digestion issues,” she said.
Brian Crichlow, assistant director of the Department of Agriculture said, “I have never heard of anyone painting an iguana before. Any act that causes injury or suffering to an animal could be considered an act of cruelty.”
Fred Burton, who as director of the Blue Iguana Recovery Program works with real blue iguanas every day, said the painted iguana appeared to have caused some confusion, as some people had sent him photos of it, asking why a blue iguana was “hanging around a gas station on West Bay Road.”