EDITORIAL – Let’s keep our pests in proper perspective

A green iguana climbs down a tree in South Sound.- PHOTOS: MATT LAMERS

Oy, and you think Cayman has problems?

We’re referring, of course, to our overabundance of green iguanas, ubiquitous lionfish, and those damned female mosquitoes.

But have you been following what’s going on in Texas? Keep reading. You’ll learn something …

Texas is the breeding ground for one of the most invasive, dangerous and nasty beasts ever known to man. They are called many names (most of them unprintable in a family newspaper), but you can think of them as hogs, boars or simply wild pigs.

The wild pigs of Texas breed like bunnies, grow quickly to hundreds of pounds in heft, have sharp gnashing teeth, beady eyes and nasty dispositions, and millions of them are ravaging the state.

Texas is fighting back, encouraging hunters to kill these demons with any and all weapons at their disposal (popular are crossbows and high-powered rifles equipped with military-grade night scopes).

New industries are popping up. Roadside stands are paying $5 apiece for “pig tails” and selling them for $10. “Swine and Wine” parties are becoming de rigueur. Helicopter hunting has become a big business. One outfit is currently running this advertisement:

Welcome to Pork Choppers Aviation!

“If you’re looking for the best damn helicopter hog hunting experience out there, you’ve come to the right place! We offer the most memorable and adrenaline-packed experience in the industry. Let us take you on a TRUE shoot of a lifetime!”

Meanwhile, in Florida, 1.5 million alligators inhabit the resort state’s freshwater lakes, ponds and canals. At Disney’s Magic Kingdom near Orlando, a gator at the Seven Seas Lagoon recently snatched a 2-year-old toddler and held him under water until he expired. (For the record, Disney responded by removing all references to crocodiles and gators from its promotional literature, including “Tick Tock the Croc” from “Peter Pan” and “Louis, the trumpet playing alligator” from “The Princess and the Frog.”)

Also in Florida, in an effort to eradicate the Burmese Python from the Everglades National Park, the state has been running a “2016 Python Challenge” with $16,000 in prize money. Snake slayer Bill Booth won the grand prize for removing 33 pythons, including one weighing 125 pounds.

For the record, the Burmese Python is not your ordinary python. In fact, it is one of the largest and most dangerous snakes known to man. While these monsters – they can grow to 18 feet – are native to Southeast Asia, they found their way to the warm waters of the Everglades where they are decimating nearly every living thing, including alligators!

But enough about feral pigs, alligators and Burmese Pythons.

We started researching invasive species to put Cayman’s issues into some perspective. The good news is that we do not have anything large enough here to eat alligators and, even if we did, we don’t have any alligators.

The troubling news is that some species, including those in Cayman, can very quickly get out of control. Our thoughts on our three current challenges:

Lionfish: Did you know that a single female lionfish in the Caribbean can spawn more than 2 million eggs per year? The “Eat ’em to Beat ’em” campaign is not likely to have much of an effect on the local lionfish population.

Green iguanas: Our culling efforts have eliminated approximately 14,000 out of an estimated population of 500,000, which is expected to double in about a year. At that rapid rate of reproduction, we almost certainly have MORE iguanas now than we did at the beginning of the program.

Mosquitoes: Don’t even ask. We cannot tell an Aedes aegypti from its Culex cousin, a male from a female, or a genetically modified sterile male from its fertile, female, bloodsucking counterpart.

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  1. CC editors. I am not sure what your point here was meant to be. Are you suggesting nothing should be done, or even tried?! In fact, demonstrable with data, the culling efforts on Little Cayman have had a very positive result controling the local Lionfish densities, especially in our treasured Marine Parks where the bulk of our culling efforts are focused. There are cases in Florida where Green Iguana culling efforts have essentially eliminated this invasive species population, although it is true that ongoing efforts are needed to keep the animals at bay. And I was very confused what you were suggesting with the A. aegypti experiment. Surely you are not suggesting that we should just give up and let the invasive species run amok?!?!?

  2. CC Editors, Peter Hillenbrand said it well. I can’t imagine what your editor is thinking when carelessly commenting “The “Eat ’em to Beat ’em” campaign is not likely to have much of an effect on the local lionfish population.” It most certainly has had a very big effect on the population and culling is proving to be an extremely important volunteer effort. Nobody, at anytime in this campaign has ever expected that we can ever, ever be completely rid of them, but we absolutely are reducing their impact on our already beleaguered reef fish populations. Please don’t belittle the heroic efforts of several hundred volunteers who are making a difference for the future of Cayman at their own expense. I’m not easily ruffled, but that poorly worded quip really lit me up after 8 years of fighting to inform the public about the efficacy of and need for culling and eating lionfish. Eat a reef fish, get 10 demerits; eat a lionfish, earn 10 bonus points! It’s the only truly guilt free fish on the menu. Please see Lionfish University on Facebook for more information.