Day one of cull nets nearly 14,000 iguanas

Raul and Sonia Reyes drop off 50 iguanas they culled at the George Town landfill on Tuesday. - Photo: Alvaro Serey

Cullers delivered 13,819 green iguanas to the George Town landfill Monday as the first day of an islandwide cull to help rid Grand Cayman of the invasive species got under way.

The number is well above the daily target required to meet the goal of culling a million of the invasive lizards in the first year of the project. Officials cautioned that the figure may not represent a precise single day cull total because of the likelihood that some hunters began culling before Monday’s official start date.

The positive opening to the cull was also marred by reports of headless iguanas discarded in canals at various locations around the island.

Fred Burton, head of the Department of Environment’s terrestrial resources unit, said the number of iguanas culled was encouraging. He said he was confident that the right resources were now in place to make serious inroads into the green iguana population.

“I think with the price adjustment and the proper budgeting to go at this full scale, it looks as though we will get as many in two days as we did in the entirety of last year’s efforts.”

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He said he expected the numbers to come down in the next few days but to increase again in the coming months as cullers hone their methods and ramp up their operations. At this stage of the cull, he said, the quota target that hunters had signed up to was 9,000 a day.

He said the early signs were encouraging but he is very concerned about several incidents where the carcasses of iguanas had been illegally discarded.

“If those people get caught, they will lose their registration. It is totally unacceptable and it is not legal,” he pointed out.

He said the cull managers were accepting heads at the landfill site in order to allow cullers to use iguanas for meat. But, he said, those bringing heads would now face an extra level of scrutiny.

“If they are not using them for meat, then we will have to have the whole body before they get paid,” he added.

Mr. Burton still hopes to encourage people to make use of the iguanas.

“It is a waste to just put them in the landfill,” he said.

“In some parts of the world, green iguanas are an important part of people’s diet and it would be great if people would warm up to the idea that it is actually quite tasty and can be prepared in an acceptable way. It would be nice to see it on restaurant menus in a significant way.”

Tukka, in East End, is believed to be the only island restaurant that currently serves iguana.

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