$200K project planned to control iguana pest

Sniffer dogs and marksmen could be used in separate initiatives to fight a growing problem with green iguanas in Grand Cayman and on the Sister Islands. 

A pilot cull is planned in Grand Cayman as part of a $200,000 project, one of the first schemes to be financed through the Environmental Protection Fund. 

On the Sister Islands, trained dogs could be deployed to hunt down a relatively small number of green iguanas in an effort to prevent the kind of population explosion that has occurred on Grand Cayman. 

Fred Burton, head of the invasive species committee of the National Conservation Council, said green iguanas are a pest species that makes commercial and backyard farming difficult. He said numbers are growing exponentially on Grand Cayman to the point where they are altering the landscape, stripping trees and damaging habitat for other animals, including some rare bird species. 

Fears are increasing that similar damage could be done on the Sister Islands if a small number of green iguanas, believed to have arrived on shipping containers, are not culled. 

Speaking at a meeting of the council last week, Mr. Burton said, “The main focus is the green iguana situation, both from the point of view of Grand Cayman, where it is a serious problem already, and on the Sister Islands, where the threat is that the same thing is going to occur.” 

He said fighting the pest would require a two-pronged approach. 

On Grand Cayman, an experimental cull will take place to assess the feasibility, financial and logistical requirements of an island-wide cull. “This is an information-gathering exercise that would result in a reduction of green iguanas in one area,” Mr. Burton said. 

He said the project would establish whether an island-wide cull is possible and how much it might cost. 

“We can never hope to eradicate them totally from Grand Cayman. If we could, we would. The realistic aim is to bring the population density down and to hold it down,” he told the Cayman Compass. 

On the Sister Islands, efforts will focus on completely eradicating green iguanas. Currently, the population there is small, making the iguanas difficult to locate, but Mr. Burton warned that by the time they were easy to find it would be too late. 

“We desperately need to research and test approaches for detecting low-density green iguana populations. They need to be found and euthanized. We are thinking of using trained dogs … if we can find a way of locating them, we can solve the problem.” 

Green Iguana_CRC_6534_np

Green iguanas are a pest species that are changing the landscape in Grand Cayman, the National Conservation Council has warned. – PHOTO: CHRIS COURT
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  1. Seriously sniffer dogs and marksmen? In my opinion this idea is both a waste of time and tax payers money. If the government is "really" serious about placing a dent on the green iguana population, they need to consider a robust approach such as maybe using trained Hawks that can target these iguanas in trees and swamps where dogs and men can’t go. The swamps and coastal areas are where these iguanas are living and breeding.
    Mr. Burton with all due respect sir, you are going to require experienced outside assistance on this one.

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  2. I’m curious to how the dogs and marksmen are going to work as well. I’m just imagining snipers out on North Sound Club picking off the little buggers. Hawks sounds like an awesome idea!

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  3. Can we please add chickens to the list, they outnumber iguanas by far. If we don’t do something soon, we will need to rename ourselves The Chicken Islands, Grand Chicken, Little Chicken and Chicken Brac with Chicken Town as our capital.

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  4. Last year they were all over the pool area. I don’t want to spend as much as I do to visit Cayman and have the poop all around the pool and iguanas everywhere. I hope to see you get this under control.

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  5. Save the 200K in tax payer money in "eradicating" the greenies, get creative and do what is being done with the lion fish…iguana is excellent vegetarian meat!

    Get the smokin’ bros to smoke some of those iguana legs for 10 hours… Roasted iguana legs anyone?

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  6. Haha, I love the thumbs down to my comment which was obviously being cheeky. Seriously folks get a sense of humor. I’m all for whatever works to control the pest population. But seriously hawks are awesome.
    And I fully agree the chickens are just as big a problem. Makes our island look trashy and third world. At least tourists think the iguanas are exotic. Chickens on the other hand are just a curiosity which quickly turn into an annoyance when the roosters start crowing.

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