Green iguanas up 60% in just one year

| 03/12/2015 | 44 Comments

Cayman News Service(CNS): Researchers at the Department of Environment’s terrestrial unit have said that the number of invasive green iguanas increased from around 127,000 counted in August 2014 to more than 200,000 a year later, an increase of 59.8% and equal to a doubling of the population over 18 months. Revealing the results of the latest research and analysis of a second count conducted this August, biologists have said that in order to try and manage the explosion of this pest a planned national cull may need to remove over 60% of all of the iguanas during 2016.

Money from the Environmental Protection Fund has been set aside for a project to begin the daunting task of reducing the population. The invasive species is now too entrenched on Grand Cayman for the animal to be eradicated completely, though there are still hopes that it could be eliminated from Cayman Brac.

In this month’s edition of the DoE magazine Flicker, editor Jane Haakonsson, a research officer with the Terrestrial Resources Unit, writes about the latest research and plans to tackle the negative impacts the pests are having on local ecosystems and biodiversity.

There is no precedence of invasive green iguana populations being eradicated once they beginning breeding anywhere, so researchers are aiming to cut numbers to levels that will be less damaging to Cayman’s unique natural environment and reduce their impact on the wider community.

The real population size of sub-adult and adult green iguanas could, however, be a lot higher, reaching more than 400,000. With the latest research, Haakonsson said the DoE could at least start making predictions about what will happen to the population in future and what needs to be done to have a manageable population. The results of the research will form the basis of a pilot culling effort.

The DoE has been tasked with designing a strategy for removing them and to find out how the population responds to increased hunting pressures in different habitats.

“This is important in order to spend time and money in the most effective way possible,” said Haakonsson. “One thing is clear, we have our work cut out for us.”

A nuisance to gardeners, pool owners and naturalists, the iguanas are also becoming a major road hazard for drivers. The rapid spread of the species is also costing thousands of dollars in damage to infrastructure and agriculture.

Flicker issue # 23 – December, January 2015/16

See back issues of Flicker on the DoE website

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Category: Land Habitat, Science & Nature

Comments (44)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    No point in having a swimming pool here – can’t frickin’ use it half the time because of disgusting iguana poo! Get on with the cull….please!

  2. Anonymous says:

    The iguana problem is just like the gang problem – government looked away and did nothing to nip it in the bud!!

  3. Knot S Smart says:

    I am thinking of two new businesses:
    1. Selling seeds for seedless watermelons.
    2. Canned iguana…

    • Anonymous says:

      Feed the sargassum to the iguanas, two birds with one stone. And if they end up tasting like turtle, that’s three.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I know some people killing them so far making good money. You get $15 per iguana and they kill 800 in a month, CI$ 12000.

  5. Tim says:

    The blue ones are even worse, that’s why I always make sure to get them.

    • Anonymous says:

      Ok here is the lowdown. The green iguanas are holdiing their breath until they turn Blie, then you can’t kill them.

  6. Anonymous says:

    The hides of some of the larger ones that are routinely squashed on the ETH are worth more than some of the vehicles that crushed them. Russia and China have a voracious appetite for exotic reptile leather goods. It’s always in style over there.

  7. Pete sake says:

    I don’t believe guns are the answer to this problem and this idea of this type of culling is to line the pockets of a very few. There is no way guns will even put a dent in the population. Many years ago government placed a bounty on the agouti similar to the one being implemented now and guess what, the agouti is very much alive and thriving and they only give birth to three or four babies a year. Whereas an iguana lays up to 40 to 60 eggs a year. See where I am going with this. Of course the lion fish is on a decline due to diver’s culling but remember there are other fish that has now placed the lion fish in their diets. So unless the government gets rid of this waste of money scheme and put a more comprehensive initiative in place, we will have to coexist with these nasty buggers.

  8. Anonymous says:

    must hit back of the head to kill. the only way to get the tree dwellers is air rifle, scope sight and license please.

  9. Fiona Foster says:

    Please hurry up with partial eradication programme.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Effing driftwood…

  11. Fiona Foster says:

    Good! Could they please get on with getting rid of as many as possible as quickly as possible? How can we help?

  12. Anonymous says:

    would an air rifle kill a full grown (or even mid size) iguana? i woudn’t have thought so.

    • Anonymous says:

      A clean headshot at 20yds with a 22 cal air rifle will definitely be enough to snuff even the largest of these green tree rats. Might be a bit overkill though I think a high velocity 177 at the same distance might do the trick also.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, your idea of an “air rifle” hasn’t moved with the times.Why would you assume that people who are studying this problem would be so incompetent that they would not have addressed the basic questions?

  13. Anonymous says:

    If a cull is to be done then how about making it an earning possibility for all Caymanians. Simply make a surprise announcement that states $5 for every green iguana handed in at DOE over, say, the following 3 weeks. For every $100K that is 20K of critters. The persons culing can keep the meat and the skins to make use of it if they can.

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s a good idea, but if population gets lower people may start illegaly breeding green iguanas.

      • Anonymous says:

        That’s why you make surprise announcement infrequently and only run the culling program for a short period of time

  14. Anonymous says:

    Unless they are sought out in the swamp areas (where they seem to be hanging out the most) and culled, nothing will change. See what happened in Florida and the Burmese Python invasion….Stop sitting around contemplating and start going out to destroy this pest asap! There are a few people out who are licensed gun owners for hunting – I am sure many of them would happily make some extra cash ….

    • Anonymous says:

      12:58. Everything is about money. I wish I had a license and an air gun I would cull them ror free. Just tired of the nusiances. Too many put money in front of everything. That almighty dollar.

  15. Tony Toni Tone says:

    Ironically enough, if these green iguanas were gay, they would not be a problem at all.

  16. Fake Iguana says:

    The threats to Cayman are increasing everyday they are not the only pest here trying to overwhelm this little place!

  17. Anonymous says:

    NATO – NO ACTION TALK ONLY. Why does it take years to get into action, when these pests are destroy everything that grows, while messing up everywhere. Get with the flow and get something done now. Procrastination is the their of time.

  18. SwampCrab says:

    Here is an easy low cost strategy that can actually make the Govt money instead of spending it, as well as bring another small stream of income for the people and the country:

    Relax the laws for importation and use of Air Rifles, which are now classified as firearms. The CISSA can offer training and qualifications for Air Rifle owners (At low cost preferably). There is a facility that is soon to open if it as not already, that is to properly prepare lionfish meat for consumption, get a similar facility for Iguana. Air Rifle owners can then be qualified to cull wherever, whenever, and as much as they want. Donate or sell them to the facility to be prepared for consumption, which in turn can be sold to members of the public, local and tourist restaurants, and even exported. This situation can be used to create a small income for the country and govt, create income for people who are interested in making a living from it, or just for some extra money, instead of spending loads of money, wasting the opportunity, wasting the food resource, and further disposal expenses and requirements.

    I was an air rifle owner in the past, and believe me, if it could be made possible for me to make a living from doing that, I would be retired and in the bush hunting the last of them right now. It is very enjoyable, keeps you in touch with nature, and with the added benefit of financial gains, it would provide the incentive to continue hunting them until they can not be found any more.

  19. Anonymous says:

    If for a moment we suspend the lament that there are no quality opportunities for advancement of Caymanians in these islands, these little buggers are actually four-legged money bags for a Caymanian entrepreneur that could grow into a substantial professional tanning empire. There is the potential for a whole new Caymanian-run industry in skinning and tanning iguana hides for high-end boots, shoes, wallets, belts, hand bags, and iphone cases. Polished iguana leather bifold wallets cost > €300 in Europe. Hermès and Louis Vuitton Malletier have leather buyers that will pay for quality leather and they will warehouse until it’s in vogue or most profitable to incorporate into a product line. They already have buyers of Croc, Alligator, and Python traveling to Louisiana and Florida. No IUCN or CITES restrictions on the green iguana and your cost of goods is negative because people will pay you to get them off their property. Eat the meat and sell the leather. Product of the Cayman Islands.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Not buying that! There has to be well over 1 million iguanas on this island.

  21. Johnny Football says says:

    Could we not get a special license to shoot these critters with an air-powered pellet gun? I’m thinking like the Lion fish culling program. Get around 5,000 of us shooting these miserable creatures every weekend. DOE could mandate a specific gun that is coloured bright pink etc to reduce the chance of it being use for nefarious purposes as everyone would realize it was a pellet gun.

    I whack them with a rake in my yard and take the machete to them. Unfortunately I can maybe kill only 5-10 of them a week.

    In case you can tell, I freakin hate them!

  22. Anonymous says:

    And most of them are in my back yard!

  23. Anonymous says:

    i like them….

  24. Anonymous says:

    This pest has been left to multiply year after year and everyone just chose to ignore it. Instead we gave prizes to people to cull Lion fish! This reptile is just as damaging on land as the Lion fish is in the sea. Why is it that we do not allow and encourage people to get rid of them in any way they can? I praise the few from the gun club (I have had a couple) that will come and do their best to eradicate them from your yard. If residents were allowed to own air guns this pest would not be in the 200,000’s which by the way is probably hugely underestimated. We need the same people that praise and the restaurants that serve to promote the same culling for these as they do for the Lion fish! I feel as if I am one man against an army of 1 million when I kill one of these. For those of you who wish to keep them, fence your yards and cover your homes. Let those of us that have no use for the nuisances know where you live and we will bring and deposit them to you.

  25. Cheese Face says:

    Lets talk about it for a couple of years and do a few more studies, I’d hate to rush into anything………

  26. Anonymous says:

    So why do some posters condemn locals when these are killed? Damn pests, imported here during the 1990’s!

    When I was growing up in the 1960’s & 1970’s the only iguanas which could be seen were at Mr. Ira Thompson’s mini-zoo on South Church Street. At that time the only wild ones on Grand Cayman would have been the blues which were never seen. Mr. Ira’s were rock iguanas which originated from Little Cayman.

  27. Sim G aka Sho G says:

    Would be a smart idea to farm them and harvest the meat then export to countries that are consumers of Iguanas. And generate some revenue for the Government. Clearly they are in excess.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’ve been saying this for months now.

    • Anonymous says:

      No, as a Civil Servant even I can see that’s what someone in the private sector should do. Not as a Government money-maker (high fees) either.

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