Cayman’s ongoing efforts to eradicate the invasive green iguana have cost more than $7.3 million so far.
Since the culling programme began in October 2018, the government has allocated more than $10 million to it. Almost 1.3 million iguanas have been killed by licensed cullers who deliver the animals to the landfill for weighing and disposal.
The bounty on large adult green iguanas has been doubled to $10 from the original flat rate of $5 per iguana when the cull began. Under the latest payment arrangement, the cullers also can earn $7 for smaller adults, and hatchlings will fetch $5.
In the first two months of the culling programme, hunters killed 298,106 iguanas. The following year, 2019, cullers wiped out 825,420 of the invasive species.
COVID-19 halted the culling efforts last year, when only 139,032 of the animals were killed.
So far this year, culling numbers are still down considerably, with just 24,246 of the iguanas being removed between 1 Jan. and 29 May, according to Department of Environment data.
The DoE said there are 140 cullers registered in Grand Cayman to take part in the programme this year, with about 60 being regularly active.
Meanwhile, on the Sister Islands, where fears that the invasive species may displace the native rock iguana, or breed with it, culling is also under way, though by volunteers rather than by paid and licensed cullers.
Since October 2016, just over 410 of the animals have been found, and killed, on Cayman Brac. On Little Cayman, since 2007, fewer than 70 greens have been culled, with 30 of those being killed since October 2016.
According to a DOE spokesperson, there has been anecdotal reports of an increase in the number of green iguanas being sighted on the Sister Islands, “but the populations are too low to get a reliable estimate with the same methodology used in Grand Cayman”.
On the Sister Island, there are dedicated teams of volunteers that respond to reports of sightings and organise searches.