Earth Month events wrap up on Brac

To mark Earth Month, students from Creek, Spot Bay and West End primary schools attended a talk and walk focusing on local rock iguanas, at Cayman Brac’s West End Community Park.

A lecture and a party were among the public events bringing Earth Month activities to a close on Cayman Brac, with the final event, a talk on recycling, scheduled to take place on Saturday, April 30, at the Brac Public Beach.

Students cleaned up litter and planted papaya seedlings.
Students cleaned up litter and planted papaya seedlings.

On Thursday, April 22, students from Creek, Spot Bay and West End Primary schools celebrated Earth Day at the Brac’s West End Community Park. Kathleen Bodden-Harris led a talk on the Brac’s endemic Rock Iguanas. The inquisitive students were able to witness young hatchlings onsite, as young iguanas came out of hiding to check out the commotion.

“Their appearances were pure joy to the youngsters as they listened and learned about these rare native creatures under the shady bandstand,” notes a press release.

In the lecture, Ms. Bodden-Harris pointed out ways to identify the differences between the native iguana species and invasive green iguanas. Pictures and flyers helped point out the differences between adult iguana males and females.

The press release notes that the iguanas are currently in the midst of mating season, and their strong urge to reproduce makes them more subject to road injuries or death, on their quest for mating partners. In addition, the students learned it is not necessary to feed iguanas since the entire island represents a lush banquet for the native reptiles, but that if they do want to feed them, recommended items include native fruits such as seagrapes, bananas or papayas, rather than human processed foods such as bread and snacks.

“The endemic creatures are opportunistic and if fed routinely will become aggressive, demanding food and [acting] territorial with each other,” the release notes.

“Such behavior leads to fighting over feeding areas and can result in injuries [to the animals].”

Researchers from the Department of Environment will soon be rounding up Brac iguanas to tag the animals with beads and pit tags for identification. The researchers will also weigh and measure the iguanas and draw blood samples for DNA determinations and other necessary data. The students were informed of how to properly report iguana sightings and how to correctly read the color bead sequences, which is from the outside to the center.

During the walk around the park, which holds the largest local concentration of population and nest sites, Ms. Bodden-Harris pointed out iguana nesting sites and bolt holes. The students also searched for spots where the females had dug to test the ground for potential nesting sites. After the walk, each of the children was given papaya seedlings to plant and care for in the park, and litter from the planting areas was removed and disposed of. The tiny seedlings will one day become food for the resident iguanas, as well as Cayman Brac Parrots and native bat species.

On Friday, April 22, students who had not taken part in the iguana talk and walk were given the chance to do their part for Earth Day, as the Department of Agriculture donated and delivered three native fruit trees to local schools for commemorative Earth Day plantings.

On Saturday, Brac residents took the opportunity to appreciate the island’s dark sky, as the National Trust hosted a Meal in the Moonlight atop the bluff by the Lighthouse.

Trust members and guests shared gourmet dishes, observing the local brown booby birds as they returned to their roosts in the evening. Attendees also had the opportunity to learn about the Brac’s nocturnal native creatures and plant life, then sat back to await the moonrise and take in the stars and some passing satellites.

Wrapping up events for Earth Month, on Saturday, April 30, Mark Rowlands of the Department of Environmental Health and Public Works will give a presentation on recycling at the Brac Public Beach at 6 p.m.