If Grand Cayman were depicted in a science fiction novel, British environmentalist and former politician Stanley Johnson imagines the title might read something like, “The Invasion of the Green Iguanas.”
In this tale, the island’s endangered blue iguana would presumably triumph as the unlikely, downtrodden hero who overcomes seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
An iguana-themed thriller remains just an idea, however. For now, the blue iguana will be the focus of an upcoming feature about the Cayman Islands environment for the U.K.’s Sunday Times newspaper.
“I will absolutely be highlighting the issue that these islands are really, really very exceptional in terms of natural history and in terms of what they can contribute to the preservation of the world’s biodiversity,” said Mr. Johnson, a former Member of the European Parliament for the Conservative party, and father of Boris Johnson, the British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.
“[Cayman has] got a lot more than just classic tourism and financial aspects,” said Mr. Johnson. “There is something in there for people who really do want to see something unusual in natural history terms. Obviously, the blue iguana is just incomparable because you’ll never get to see blue iguanas anywhere else.”
After recently hitting it off with Premier Alden McLaughlin in London, the politician turned writer visited the islands for the first time last week on a fact-finding mission of sorts about Grand Cayman’s endemic blue iguana.
The pressure this species faces from the invasive green iguana population will be one of several environmental concerns Mr. Johnson highlights in the Times.
A 2016 Department of Environment survey showed the green iguana population doubled in a year, reaching more than 400,000.
“We now have hundreds of blue iguanas and let me tell you, they are magnificent beasts. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say this, but I actually picked up one and I’ve got a photograph of me carrying this great, wonderful specimen,” Mr. Johnson said.
“Well, that’s half the story because having brought it back from extinction, the main thing now is making sure you can maintain that population. That of course, is the tricky side because you’ve got all of the pressures.”
Mr. Johnson, an active environmentalist and an ambassador for the U.N. Convention on Migratory Species, identified several other areas of concern for the blue iguana, including development pressure on habitat, threats from wild dogs and infections from helicobacter.
To address the ever-growing green iguana population, Mr. Johnson suggested Cayman take a cue from Isabela in the Galapagos Islands.
“How did they get rid of goats in Isabela, one of the main islands in the Galapagos chain? Well, they called in the New Zealanders and the New Zealanders came with their helicopters and did sharp shooting,” he said.
“My view really is that what they probably need to do is put it out to tender. And say, we have to have bids in from competent, conservation organizations around the world on how to deal with the invasion of the green iguanas.”
Leading up to the EU referendum, Mr. Johnson campaigned against Brexit with a group called Environmentalists for Europe. While Mr. Johnson’s son Boris ran a successful countercampaign in support of Brexit, he hopes Britain will continue to support conservation measures.
“Britain is coming out of the EU. That is the reality. What matters is to make sure we don’t throw away the baby with the bathwater, that we do keep all of the wonderful environmental measures which we did bring in,” Mr. Johnson said.
“We need to make sure those regulations stay in place one way or another. We need to be sure we can continue to develop the environmental policy. There are also some opportunities.”
As Britain leaves the EU, he sees an opportunity to build stronger bonds with the British overseas territories like the Cayman Islands.
“I have a feeling these overseas territories will suddenly loom much larger in our national consciousness. Instead of thinking our hinterland is Europe, now we’re going to have to say to ourselves, actually our hinterland is those 17 territories around the world, which really do have so much to offer,” Mr. Johnson said.
While in Grand Cayman, Mr. Johnson presented a copy of his new fiction book, “Kompromat,” to Premier McLaughlin.
“‘Kompromat’ has just come out in London and tries to imagine how we really got to the Brexit situation in Britain. Who was involved? Was it … Russia? How did we really get to the United States presidential election? Were the Russians involved there? It’s a thriller,” he said.
Feeling inspired by his trip to the Caribbean, he said his next novel may focus on Grand Cayman and the story of the blue iguana.