A cull manager will be recruited on a short-term contract to take charge of a four-month blitz on Cayman’s invasive green iguanas, starting in May.
The project involves contract cullers who will be paid $2-a-head, and more casual community participants, who will be paid in raffle tickets.
Speaking after last week’s National Conservation Council meeting, Fred Burton, manager of the Department of Environment’s terrestrial resources unit, said authorities are in uncharted territory in their efforts to reduce the exponentially increasing iguana population, which poses a threat to farmers and to the island’s ecosystem.
He said a four-month blitz during breeding season, from May through August, would give the department an idea of the potential for concerted human intervention to deal with the problem.
Mr. Burton has previously acknowledged that eradicating iguanas in Grand Cayman may well be an expensive multi-year process, too vast for the DoE to manage alone. He said hiring a manager to lead the cull would prevent the operation from taking over the time and energy of the entire Department of Environment, as it threatened to do during a two-week trial cull last year.
Another key difference this time is that the DoE will not be responsible for counting and disposing of the dead animals. Instead, cullers will mark the iguanas in Sharpie pen with a unique code and submit photographs for payment.
Mr. Burton said cullers will be required to kill iguanas swiftly and ethically and dispose of them properly. Anyone found to have caused unnecessary suffering to an iguana or who tries to cheat the photographic counting system can be banned from the cull or the raffle.
“If people are found to be breaking the rules they will get banned from the raffle. If they falsify or Photoshop, then they won’t be allowed to participate any more,” he said.
The raffle will involve community cullers being awarded a ticket for a cash draw for every 10 iguanas culled.
The exact process and guidelines for people to take part will be communicated over the next month.
Mr. Burton said the community aspect is necessary because there are not enough commercial cullers to make a significant enough impact on numbers.
At the latest population survey in August 2016, 404,000 adult green iguanas were counted. When hatchlings are included in the count, the number increases to more than 800,000. The figures also show a year-on-year increase in the rate of population growth.
Mr. Burton said the 2017 census would help determine the impact of the cull and the long-term plan.