The 2020 edition of the green iguana cull has started, with 594 of the animals being turned in to the Department of Environment in the first three days of this year’s cull.
Registration began Monday for the programme that is aimed at controlling the numbers of the invasive species in Grand Cayman.
More than 50 people had signed up at the George Town landfill by Tuesday to participate in the DoE-led project. The department is urging all cullers who participated in the effort last year to renew their contracts.
“All cullers now need to re-register at the landfill reception site and obtain their 2020 culler cards. Cullers with air rifle licences will need their new culler card to reapply to RCIPS for the special licensing provisions they had in 2019,” the DoE’s Fred Burton told the Cayman Compass.
Cullers must be at least 18 years old and must possess either Caymanian status or a valid trade and business licence.
Slow start for new cull phase
Karl Noble, director of Cornwall Consulting Ltd., which is managing the cull for the DoE, said the programme kicked off slowly this month, but he expects the numbers to be back to normal by the end of February.
Last year, 1.1 million iguanas were culled.
“It has been very cool and the animals tend to hide in this kind of weather, so we are off to a slow start,” Noble said on Tuesday morning. “However, within the next week or so, as we get the cullers signed in, as we educate them on where they can likely find iguanas, and best practices, and those sorts of things, we expect to see the numbers picking up.”
Noble said any green iguanas brought in after 31 Jan. by cullers with expired registration cards would not be accepted.
He said 467 cullers signed up last year, but only about 150 cullers were turning in iguanas on a regular basis. He chalked this up to people signing up out of curiosity and the easy availability of iguanas at the start of the programme.
“Now, the task is a lot more difficult, because the iguana is less accessible, so we forecast about half that number [of cullers] will sign up for this phase in 2020,” he said.
DoE, Cornwall aim high
Noble said that, despite the number of consistent cullers, the programme’s pilot phase was a success.
“Government had forecast there were 1.3 to 1.6 million iguanas actually on the island. We had hoped to hit the million-iguana mark by December 22 last year and we actually did 1.1 million at that point last year, so actually we were overwhelmed with how well we did last year,” he said.
It is a point culler Donna Rita Dilbert shared.
She said she was happy the programme was renewed for 2020.
“I enjoyed doing it, for keeping our island clean, and to get a few extra bucks, of course,” she said. “I think [the cull] made an impact. It was very good; they did a lot of cleaning and got a lot of stuff. So, I feel it was great. I am happy they are doing it again this year.”
Environment Minister Dwayne Seymour commended the DoE’s efforts in a media statement Monday, adding, “there is still more work to do. Cabinet has agreed to fund this project going into 2020 to ensure we don’t let the situation get out of hand again.”
What the numbers look like
Noble said the last green iguana population survey estimated around 109,000 adults were in Grand Cayman, along with a possible 800,000 juvenile iguanas. “If we are able to hit, in my view, about 600,000, that would be an amazing year for us,” he said.
Burton said the DoE is considering running another green iguana survey in February, similar to the one conducted last year.
“We did the main annual survey last August, and since that time, there was a large emergence of new hatchlings (from eggs laid last summer when the population was much higher). The cullers have been targeting those hatchlings ever since. This has kept the weekly cull numbers up, right through the end of 2019,” Burton said in an email.
He said, at present, it is difficult to know what proportion of last year’s hatchlings have been culled.
“[It is] hard to project numerical expectations at this point. However, we ideally wish to reduce the August 2019 population by some 80% or more by August of 2020,” he added.
Culled iguana numbers – Jan. 2020
2 Jan. – 291
3 Jan. – 66
4 Jan. – 237
Cullers must agree to the following contract terms:
The ability to correctly identify green and blue iguanas
Never trespass on private property
Treat animals humanely
Cull companies must manage team members and/or acquire green iguanas in a responsible manner, consistent with local laws and regulations.