A blue iguana popular with tourists at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park was killed in a dog attack on Sunday.
“Inky” is the second blue iguana to be killed in a dog attack this month – an iguana called RW was attacked and killed in the same location about two weeks ago.
There are 35-40 free roaming blue iguanas and 156 in captivity at the Botanic Park, according to Karen Ford, park warden in the Blue Iguana Recovery Program.
The recovery program is working to repopulate the species, which was on the brink of extinction in 2002, with only about a dozen surviving from the original wild population.
In 2014, Fred Burton, director of the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, said the wild population at the Botanic Park was the most vulnerable of the three wildlife reserves on island, including the Salina Reserve and Colliers Wilderness Reserve, due to a number of factors.
He said at the time that the death rate of iguanas at the Botanic Park averages about one per year due to traffic or predators and as long as housing developments continue to go up near North Side Road, there will be attacks.
If that trend continues, then the iguana population that roams free in the park would become unsustainable. “It can’t take much more pressure like this,” Mr. Burton said.
The 14-year-old endemic reptile, also nicknamed “Kinky” because of kinks in his spine, was an ambassador to all visitors to the park, officials said.
Kinky’s name was changed to Inky by its sponsors Blue Dragon Tattoo. Caz, the owner of the tattoo company, said it was important to alert people of what the dogs were doing so that their owners can become more responsible. “Once [the dogs] do it once, they will do it again,” she said.
She wondered why the iguana did not run into the trees to escape from the dogs, but was told by wardens it was not in the animals’ instinct to do so because they did not usually have predators and had no fear of dogs.
She added that her company would sponsor another blue iguana.
Inky was a well-known figure to those who visited the park and was often the first blue iguana that visitors came across because he frequented the car park and the area in front of the Visitors Centre.
“Inky welcomed visitors to the park and the Visitors Centre and was probably the most photographed blue iguana in the world,” Ms. Ford said. “He was everyone’s favorite. It’s not just a big loss for the program but for Cayman as well.” Park worker Nancy Whittaker said she came across a large white dog attacking Inky as she was making her rounds Sunday morning. She ran to the facility to get park warden Alberto Estevanovich and Ms. Ford, who identified the injured iguana. Inky was bleeding badly with lots of bites to his legs and body.
“I am not sure how long the [dog was] attacking the iguana but it must have been quite a while because it was a big iguana,” Ms. Whittaker said. Mr. Estevanovich said the iguana had bite marks on his hind legs and a broken pelvis. “When we found Inky, he was barely alive, we took him to Island Veterinary Services [and] they did all they could do but he died hours later,” he said.
At the veterinary clinic, Inky was given an X-ray, painkillers, antibiotics, fluids, vitamins and placed in the shade for recovery, but despite these efforts, after about two hours he died. “Generally, reptiles and wild animals are very sensitive to stress. He might have survived the wounds themselves but the stress of the situation itself was probably the end of him,” said veterinarian Ioana Popescu.
“Dogs and cats are a big problem to the blue iguana,” said Ms. Ford. “Cats will go after the young [iguanas] and dogs the adults, we are getting hit from both ends.”
She said the Botanic Park called the Department of Agriculture several times about the dogs in the area and the department provided the park with traps.
She called on dog owners to be more responsible and make sure their pets are in secure areas.
“A lot of work has been put in the program and to lose that would not be good,” she said.
The Botanic Park’s general manager, John Lawrus, said the 65-acre park is not fenced so this means the animals that live in the park are vulnerable to attack by roaming dogs that can easily access the site.
Ashani Francis-Collins contributed to this report.