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.”