Blue iguana death a ‘blow’ to recovery programme

Hardie: Breeding programme set back years

An endangered blue iguana appears to have been run over deliberately at the side of the road in East End.

National Trust Director Nadie Hardie expressed anguish and anger following the death of the large breeding male blue iguana which was run over along the Queen’s Highway on Thursday afternoon.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Hardie as she spoke with the Cayman Compass via Zoom Friday.

She said she believes the 16-year-old animal, which is a protected species, was deliberately killed as it may have been mistaken for a green iguana.

“We know he was feeding at the side of the road because of the fact that he actually had grass still in his mouth when we found his body. It’s just devastating to us that somebody would have deliberately swerved, because we could see the tyre tracks, to hit this blue,” she said.

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Hardie said the death has set the blue iguana conservation programme back years since there few breeding blue iguana males in the wild.

According to a social media post from Blue Iguana Conservation, the iguana had been released eight years after being bred and reared in captivity at the facility at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park.

“This animal was released into one of our protected reserves in 2012, where he was thriving for eight years, to then be killed by a deliberate act. The loss of this large (7 kg) breeding male is utterly tragic and sets the programme back years,” the post stated.

Hardie said the animal, a product of the ongoing recovery programme, had been playing an important role in furthering the species in the wild.

“When things like this happen, it is just devastating. It takes a long time for these animals to get to this size and it’s important because it’s a breeder male. And so, for us to try to have wild breeding going on, clearly we need these males,” she said.

Hardie said drivers “should never be trying to kill wildlife any wildlife in this manner”.

She said to swerve to hit this iguana that was simply “enjoying his lunch at the side of the road is slightly mind blowing”.

“Greens are an invasive species and the National Trust wholeheartedly supports the cull, but it has to be done in a humane and ethical manner by people that are licensed to do it and who know the difference between a blue and a green, and chances are up in the east, any iguana you see may well be blue,” she said.

Hardie urged drivers to exercise caution, especially when transversing through Cayman’s protected areas.

“That’s why we would really, really implore the public to be very, very careful when driving, especially along that Queen’s Highway. Drive slowly, as they’re supposed to, but also to be careful and mindful not to hit any wildlife, and especially iguanas, in that area. We do have signs that do warn people that there could be blue iguanas crossing,” she said.

She added that the blue iguana is a schedule one protected species and it is a criminal offence to harm the animal.

Hardie said the iguanas are already facing threats from a growing feral dog and cat population and it does not need irresponsible drivers to add to their fight for survival.

“The whole point of the Blue Iguana Conservation programme is to breed them, headstart them, and then release them into the wild, so that they can actually have the quality of life, and they can hopefully start procreating themselves out there and the numbers swell. But if we can never protect these animals in the wild, we will always be on this treadmill, never getting very much further,” she said.

The rock iguanas on the Sister Islands, she said, are also facing similar challenges.

She said the Department of Environment is considering a headstart captive breeding programme on Cayman Brac to assist with furthering the species.

Despite of the loss of the iguana Thursday, Hardie said the blue iguana programme has registered a win, as roughly 30 hatchlings had been born over the last 10 days.

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