Grand Cayman’s deputized bands of iguana hunters are focused on the iguanas, while the general public apparently is shifting its focus to the cullers themselves.
To be certain, the “numbers” the cullers are producing, admittedly based on the earliest of returns, are nothing short of impressive.
By the close of opening day on Monday, cullers turned into the landfill 13,819 “former” iguanas. On day two, they deposited an additional 9,835 iguanas, meaning that, within a span of 48 hours, nearly 24,000 iguanas were removed from Cayman’s trees, lawns and swimming pools.
Clearly, as time goes on, these numbers will decline as the iguana population shrinks and the “easy kills” will become fewer and fewer.
Nevertheless, an unforeseen issue has now tainted this auspicious beginning. Almost immediately, residents began to report sightings of “culler abuse” or misbehavior.
Most graphically, photos began to circulate of headless iguana carcasses in Cayman’s canals, most notably a waterway in Barkers where dozens of headless bodies were found floating.
The concern, of course, is not only the grizzly images of decapitated corpses in our waterways but also the health hazards that decomposing iguanas could create in our canals. Social media already has gone ballistic with outrage from anonymous posters, decrying the incompetence of the government with special vitriol being reserved for the Department of Environment which is supposedly in charge of the eradication effort.
(Yesterday being Halloween, we heard one – rather clever, we thought – reference to Ichabod Crane, the “headless horseman” from Washington Irving’s Halloween tale, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”)
What appears to be going on is the result of a less-than-clear instruction from Fred Burton, head of the DoE’s terrestrial resources unit and leader of the culling project. Mr. Burton made it clear that in order for cullers to be paid the bounty for each iguana they kill, they must bring the carcass to the landfill for a proper accounting.
However, he also created a “loophole” that in some instances the managers at the landfill would accept just the “heads” of the varmints, rather than the entire carcass, to qualify for payment.
Supposedly the rationale behind this heads-only policy was to allow some cullers to use the below-the-head portion of the iguana for meat. We will resist the temptation to embellish on the “take your pick, heads or tails” option.
What needs to be done – immediately – is to make it clear there is only one policy: Full payment for full bodies. No exceptions.
In the meantime, hunters are patrolling neighborhoods, parks and public spaces armed with motley assortments of armaments, including air rifles, machetes, nooses, traps and – we have eyewitness confirmation on this – at least one fishing rod that a culler somehow used to hook a couple of iguanas (tree fish?) earlier this week.
And then, we guess, in a nod to “political correctness” or “animal rights,” the DoE warned that cullers would be held to account if they don’t eradicate these reptilian invaders “humanely.” Only a bureaucracy could convey such contradictory messaging. How do you humanely shoot or strangle anything – especially something as big – and nasty – as an angry iguana?
Let’s get on with this unpleasant business. Because of government’s unforgiveable idleness and unbelievable silliness (Lizard Lottos?) in combatting our iguana invasion, we find ourselves in a horrible human, animal and environmental mess. Let’s get it behind us as fast as is humanly (not necessarily humanely) possible.