The Department of Environment is seeking a contractor to manage a full-scale, multi-year cull of green iguanas that aims to remove 1.4 million of the invasive lizards from Grand Cayman by the end of next year.

The DoE is seeking bids from private companies to provide management services for the effort, which is likely to involve up to 100 cullers working full time.

The winning bidder will be contracted to operate an iguana receiving, weighing and counting station at the George Town landfill. They will be responsible for ensuring cullers meet performance targets and adhere to humane culling standards, paying cullers for the iguanas they bring to the station and providing detailed accounting and reporting to the Department of Environment.

The DoE has provided a business case to government, which has been approved by the Ministry, and is seeking around $7 million in additional funding, on top of the $2.2 million already allocated, to finance the cull through the end of 2019.

Cullers will be paid $5-a-head for iguanas in a structured payment system that incentivizes them to meet monthly and annual targets.

Fred Burton, the manager of the DoE’s terrestrial resources unit, said the response to an initial request for information from Cayman’s culling community had been strong enough to suggest the ambitious 1.4 million target was reachable.

The DoE will be responsible for licensing cullers but they will report to and be paid by the private cull manager. Individuals or private companies can register but must commit to cull a minimum of 5,000 iguanas each year.

“We have a mix of companies prepared to cull very large numbers of iguanas and some individuals who may be down around that minimum threshold,” Mr. Burton said.

He said he was confident that the capacity did exist in Grand Cayman to hit the target.

“There are companies that have indicated they will be setting up operations with significant numbers of staff and culling really large numbers,” he added.

He emphasized that registration for cullers would not begin until later in the year and that the current request for proposals is for management services. It is hoped the cull can begin by mid-October.

The cost of the project is estimated at $2.4 million through to the end of this year and $6.9 million for next year, or $9.3 million in total.

Mr. Burton said a similar expense would likely be necessary in 2020.

“Once we start to get the population down, the iguanas are going to be harder to find. The cull target will be smaller (in 2020) but the effort to reach it will be higher. It might need a similar level of effort and expenditure.”

If the cull hits its 1.4 million target, he said it would “overwhelm” the iguana population and achieve a significant reduction in numbers.

There are an estimated 1.6 million green iguanas in Grand Cayman currently, though the population expands rapidly each year and a certain number need to be killed simply to keep up with the rate of reproduction. Mr. Burton said performance management would be an important part of the cull manager’s job.

“It is very important that we reach the specific targets we are after. If we don’t kill a certain number of iguanas over the coming months, the project won’t be successful.”

Gina Ebanks-Petrie said funding for the cull had been discussed with Minister for Environment Dwayne Seymour, who was taking the proposal to his colleagues.

She acknowledged that disposing of more than a million iguanas at the landfill site was not an ideal situation but said it was the only viable option.

“It’s a matter of the best choice in a situation where there may not be very many good choices,” she added.

A Project Steering Committee involving DoE, the Ministry and the cull manager will set monthly targets agreed upon with the cullers, address any issues that arise and ensure the project is moving forward efficiently.

Companies who are interested in bidding for the cull manager contract should download the RFP from https://cayman.bonfirehub.com/opportunities.

2 COMMENTS

  1. This problem is very similar to the feral hog problem we have in Texas. The saying goes if you see one then you have a problem – because you aren’t seeing the other 20. It may be extremely hard to actually make significant progress against the reproductive headwinds but if the iguanas are controlled as we do (or try to) with hogs then it will help alleviate a good portion of the damage. It may be worth looking at but there are several uses for the hides of iguanas. It might make for some interesting craft items that could be marketed to the tourists. Watch bands, belts, key chains, bracelets and purses, could make for some extra dollars when the cruise ships pull in and the product would be environmentally friendly and very sustainable. Two key words that could help pry the dollars out for the purchase.
    Like the lion fish problem, Florida removed all license requirements (spearfishing) in an effort to bring more “hunters” to the fight. If the DoE would like to increase the iguana cull rate then lowering the restrictions on the air rifles would be a good step. The DoE might then be able to consider looking at this as a recreational activity with sanctioned hunts – host a tournament like a fishing tournament. Prizes for the biggest kill, the largest bag, and heaviest harvest. This may be way cheaper than the $5 a head provision that is currently proposed. Sounds like a fun weekend.