It will take a dedicated commitment of money and resources to control or eradicate Cayman’s green iguana population, according to Department of Environment experts.

Fred Burton, who has overseen efforts to contain the invasive species, said the scale of the operation would likely require multiple culling businesses, employing dozens of iguana hunters, to be hired on government contracts for several years.

Another option would be to create a new government department, similar to the Mosquito Research and Control Unit, to do the job, he said.

But he cautioned there were not sufficient resources currently allocated to pursue either option.

Mr. Burton is working on a proposal to government.

In a presentation to the National Conservation Council Wednesday about the 2017 efforts, which deployed bounty hunters to cull iguanas for $3 a head, he said the strategy had not been successful.

Just under 30,000 iguanas were culled during the seven months of the program, according to his report. He said this was less than 5 percent of what was needed.

Speaking after the meeting, he said an annual target figure of between 600,000 and one million would be required to start reducing the green iguana population.

Department of Environment surveys show a rapid increase in the population, which was estimated at just over one million at the end of last year. If it rises at the same rate as in previous years, the population could hit 1.6 million this year.

Currently, Mr. Burton said, the Department of Environment is not equipped to control that growth.

Government allocated $1.1 million toward iguana control in 2018, but it is likely that substantially more resources will be required.

Mr. Burton is not convinced that it makes sense to invest in culling efforts that do not keep pace with population growth.

The problems are logistical as well as financial. He said the Department of Environment did not spend its full budget on last year’s bounty hunter program, because there was not sufficient interest from cullers. Only 20 of the 71 people signed up for the program engaged in regular culling and, of those, two people were responsible for the bulk of the iguanas culled, according to his report.

“We couldn’t spend the budget because there aren’t enough people who can drop what they are doing to cull iguanas. There are currently three or four people set up to do this full time and we need a lot more than that,” he said.

“We need a lot more people working. The scale of this operation doesn’t approach what needs to happen.”

He said it was not impossible to solve the problem but it would require a large investment of time and resources. He said one strategy could be to look to the private sector to establish culling businesses that could be hired for the job through central tenders.

But he cautioned it was a “chicken-and-egg” scenario with culling businesses, which do exist on a small scale in Cayman but are unlikely to staff up for such a mammoth escalation of their role without a definitive contract on the table.

“It is not impossible but it is going to require significantly large companies to be set up on big money contracts with a payment structure that incentivizes targets to be met,” he said.

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