Letter: A tourist’s view of the great iguana cull

In the last few days I’ve seen an increase of armed men on the roadside, on roundabouts, among the bushes and, in some cases, in the middle of the road, armed with an assortment of what can only be described as “iguana guns” – ranging from a 6-foot tree branch with a loop of fishing twine attached to the end to a ferocious-looking 20-foot gaff. These men, of course, are the newly licensed iguana hunters recently set up by the government to reduce the numbers of green invaders – yes, “aliens.”

The non-native green iguana population has exploded in numbers, giving the ever-opportunistic Caymanian a chance to make a small fortune! Apparently, a good iguana hunter can capture a hundred a day and, at $5 per head, it seems like a great way to make some easy money. Last week, I had the chance to join in with the capture of a few “tree chickens.” I can tell you, it’s not as easy as it looks!

The iguanas are intelligent and learn fast. Scampering up the nearest tree with surprising speed, they crawl into the topmost palm fronds and seemingly disappear.

If or when the hunter manages to knock one from the tree without gaffing, snaring or spearing it, then it’s a full-on sprint to catch the lightning-fast lizard before it retreats once again up a tree. Long grass is an advantage to the iguana and it was quite a sight watching full-grown men run around in circles bashing at the grass with improvised iguana clubs, narrowly missing each other, shouting, cursing and blaming one another for the loss of the $5.

Stopping in the road Friday morning to let a hunter wielding a 20-foot-long catch pole cross, we watched as he snared a very large iguana. A battle ensued that can only be akin to trying to land a 40-pound mahi mahi out of a tree. We cheered the hunter on and shouted encouragement as he wrestled with the mini-Godzilla. This time, the iguana won the battle, snapping the twine and escaping.

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Dejected but very happy with the job he’s doing, the hunter just laughed and moved on to the next patch of undisturbed bush.

I can see that the first couple of weeks of the iguana cull will produce the most numbers but as the easy ones are picked off, the real work will begin. I just hope that hunters do not clash over prime iguana producing territory!

Giuseppe Rossi

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