Environment officials are rethinking their iguana-control strategy after a weak return in the first month of a planned community cull.
Just 1,437 iguanas were culled in May, compared with nearly 20,000 during three weeks of test culling last year.
Fred Burton, the Department of Environment’s terrestrial resources manager, said the strategy, which involves a mix of contracted hunters and volunteer cullers, is not working.
“It is quite clear that the scale of operation needed to take care of this in any meaningful way is going to be way bigger than what we are doing at the moment,” he said.
He said his personal view is that professional contractors would need to be hired on full-time contracts for several years at a price that made it worth their while.
The reason for the low numbers of iguanas culled so far, he said, is that many of the contractors have other jobs and were culling sporadically in their spare time. The relatively low $2 per head bounty on iguanas, compared with $5 during testing last year, also proved a deterrent, he added. Though 29 people or businesses have signed on for the cull, just three groups are responsible for the majority of the iguanas caught so far.
Interest in the community raffle has been even less, with just nine people signed up to take part.
Mr. Burton said, “It was an idea to see if it would catch on, and it clearly hasn’t caught on.
We may have underestimated how reluctant the average person would be to wrestle with an iguana and deal a death blow to it.”
The department has tweaked the rules of the raffle and will now hold a $1,000 prize draw after 500 iguanas have been caught, with participants getting a ticket for every iguana caught.
He said the exercise so far has had little impact on the exponentially increasing population of green iguanas and is not currently keeping pace with the expected rate of reproduction during breeding season.
Mr. Burton believes trained cullers would need to kill 750,000 iguanas per year to reverse the trend and turn an increasing population into a declining one.
He said the first month of what was planned to be a four-month cull at least provided new information about the market rate required to motivate hunters to cull iguanas.
“We already had a clear understanding of the scale of the problem and we are now getting an increasingly clear idea of the relationship between price and motivation to hunt on the scale we need.”
He said it would be a question for the new government as to whether they were prepared to pay “X million” to various contractors for what would be a multiyear job.
“They will have to decide if they want to put that type of financial resources into this problem because anything less than that could be a waste of money, I’m afraid.”