A survey on the Rock Iguana population in Little Cayman will get under way by the end of this year, according to Department of Environment officials.
“We are in the process of deciding on a survey that will be adequate; because of the harsh environment in Little Cayman, it is very difficult to access all the areas,” explained research officer of the Department of Environment Jane Haakonsson, who is heading up the initiative. “We are creating a survey that takes into account the inaccessible areas of Little Cayman.”
In a similar vein, Department of Environment officers visited Little Cayman from Aug. 26 to Sept. 19, to complete a rock iguana relocation project, which has been ongoing for the past three years.
Since 2012, 143 Rock Iguanas, which are endemic to Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, have been transported by Department of Environment staff from Blossom Avenue in Little Cayman to the Booby Pond area.
“We know there is a particular threat to the hatchings that emerge in that area,” said Ms. Haakonsson.
“We moved them behind the Booby Pond to increase their chance of survival so they don’t get run over [by traffic],” she explained. A high concentration of feral cats, which are known to hunt iguanas, were also found in the area.
As part of the relocation project, DoE staff and volunteers caught and measured the hatchlings, photographed their heads, and inserted microchips in the reptiles to aid officers in later identifying them.
Ms. Haakonsson said, according to the last Rock Iguana population survey which was done about five years ago, there are roughly 12,000 Rock Iguanas in existence, with the majority found in Little Cayman and a few hundred in Cayman Brac. The Cayman Islands Blue Iguana, an endangered species only found Grand Cayman, is estimated to reach a population of 1,000 in the wild by 2016, said Ms. Haakonsson.
The Department of Environment also carried out a population survey on the invasive green iguana species in Grand Cayman in August.
“We’ve recently conducted a population study on island’s green iguana population. This was done while we continued our parrot survey with Dr. Frank Rivera-Milan from the [U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service],” said DoE research officer Jessica Harvey.
Findings of the survey revealed there are an estimated 62,000 to 88,000 green iguanas in Grand Cayman, more than island’s current human population.
Data was collected at 165 different survey points across the island and the majority of green iguanas were found in the Western Side of Grand Cayman at golf courses, urban centers and quarries.
The DoE is exploring methods of eradicating the invasive species, according to Ms. Haakonsson.
“If you are considering eradication methods, you need to know how many iguanas you have here,” she said. “DoE is considering what methods could be used, but we don’t have the tools necessary to successfully eradicate them at the moment. It would have to be tackled on a much broader scale.”
Ms. Harvey said, “This information was of great importance and we are likely to do another one next year as this information only represents the estimated number of iguanas at this time of year.”
Earlier this year, there were concerns following the discovery of 30 dead green iguanas in West Bay that the iguanas may have been diseased. Tests on the dead reptiles, however, came back inconclusive.
“The necropsy report came back inconclusive, so right now we don’t have an actual diagnosis, but at least we know there is no actual virus or bacterial disease which has been found, which is a good thing,” Ms. Harvey said.