Cullers on Cayman Brac are hunting down a fledgling population of green iguanas in an effort to stop the invasive species from gaining a foothold on the island.
While population surveys suggest Grand Cayman is overrun with more than a million green iguanas, the invasion in the Brac is in its infancy.
Only 16 iguanas, including 13 juveniles, were caught in four days of intensive search efforts on the island last week.
Department of Environment officials are anxious to get to grips with the problem now, before the population gets larger and becomes more difficult to contain.
“Currently it is not as large a problem as on Grand Cayman,” said research officer Sophie O’Hehir.
“They are not easy to find on the Sister Islands, but they are definitely there. From the results of the search effort last week, there is clearly an established breeding population. With no natural population control, they can easily become as abundant on Cayman Brac as they are on Grand Cayman.
“With every breeding season, the resources required to manage the problem increase. We are very keen to control the issue before the adverse effects of overpopulation are felt by Brac residents, and while the means necessary to do this are manageable.”
Exploding green iguana populations on Grand Cayman have impacted farmers and threaten to cause major and irreversible changes to the ecosystem, according to Frederic Burton, head of the Department of Environment’s terrestrial resources unit.
The scale of the problem has become so great that government has allocated $1.1 million a year toward culling efforts on Grand Cayman.
Officials are on high alert to avoid similar impacts and costs on the Brac. The Port Authority has been asked to carefully examine shipping containers to prevent green iguanas being accidentally transported to the island.
Additionally, the DoE has established a hotline for residents on both Cayman Brac and Little Cayman to report any sightings.
“They are very inconspicuous animals who do not want to be found. When they do appear, it is important that they are kept in sight and reported immediately to ensure the best chance of capture,” Ms. O’Hehir said.
She said the support of a strong network of volunteers and the wider community was encouraging.
“Their generosity and enthusiasm for the local environment makes me positive about removing green iguanas from these unique islands,” she added.
To report any green iguana sightings on Cayman Brac call 917-7744. To report any green iguana sightings on Little Cayman call 925-7625.