EDITORIAL – To Grand Cayman’s green iguana cullers: Happy (and safe) hunting

“Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field, and hunt game for me.”
– Genesis 27:3

We’ve written so much on Grand Cayman’s green iguana problem and government’s efforts to combat the invasive lizards that we hardly know what else to say … But we (and, starting Monday, the country’s cullers) will give it our best shot.

More than 350 people have signed up for the Department of Environment’s Green Iguana Cull Project. Local firm Cornwall Consulting has been hired to manage the islandwide eradication campaign. Police have created a special class of firearms license to enable and regulate the use of air rifles by registered cullers.

With the project set to begin officially on Monday at 8 a.m. sharp, it seems that officials have done their best to get all their administrative ducks in a row.

Next up: One million green iguanas.

The magnitude of the issue has been well established. It is understandable to treat with skepticism the government’s estimate of the green iguana population (1.1 million to 1.6 million and counting … er, procreating), but anyone who lives near a golf course, tree or strip of grass is surrounded by an abundance of evidence – i.e., an abundance of iguanas – that these flora-devouring, pool-befouling and road-spattering lizards are out of control.

In past editorials, we have acknowledged the seriousness of the issue and advised that government’s response – if any is to be taken – must be equally serious. At the same time we have expressed reservations about ensuring that vital details have been addressed (such as verification of cullers and disposal of carcasses) and, most importantly, that the public peace and safety be preserved.

Past iguana culling attempts have not met those criteria. Perhaps most notably the ill-conceived “Lizard Lotto” from last year – in no small part due to a lack of committed funds, and therefore commitment, from Cabinet.

The impending project, however, appears to be more promising.

With a budget of $9 million, officials aim to remove a million green iguanas from their hitherto Edenic existence on Grand Cayman in the next year. That is not enough to effect the extinction of the reptiles from our shores, but it should be more than adequate to offset further growth in the population over the time period.

The Department of Environment has conscripted a formidable army of hundreds of cullers, who will be paid $4.50-$5 per culled iguana. And on Thursday, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service endorsed officially the project by releasing much-needed rules for iguana cullers whose weapon of choice is an air rifle.

  • Registered cullers who wish to use an air rifle must apply to RCIPS for the special license;
  • The special licenses are only for .22 or .25 caliber air rifles; and,
  • Registered cullers may use an air rifle to cull iguana within 40 yards of a public road.*

In addition, the DoE has also issued sensible-sounding guidance, reminding participants that a license to cull is not a license to trespass on private property, and instructing cullers to be sensitive and deferential to the significant portion of the populace that is not comfortable with the killing of animals.

Throughout the next year, we will be monitoring closely the results of the project and accordingly updating our readers as to its successes or shortcomings.

But for now, we wish the DoE and its cullers a safe and happy hunting season. And we will leave them with a bit of advice from a man who was quite familiar with bullets, battles and decisive action. Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “If you are going to take Vienna, take Vienna.”

More to the point: If you are going to kill green iguanas, kill green iguanas.

***Editor’s note: This editorial has been updated from the original.***