Green iguana solution may be dedicated unit

| 19/03/2018 | 52 Comments
Invasive green iguana in the Cayman Islands

Invasive green iguana

(CNS): With a budget of just $1.1 million this year to try to make a dent in the population of green iguana in the Cayman Islands, which is now well over one million, Fred Burton, the Department of Environment‘s Terrestrial Resources Unit manager, said the challenge is significant and will not be solved through any kind of bounty. Burton, who is now tasked with coming up with a solution to contain the explosion of the invasive iguana, said the pilot efforts last year illustrated just how massive the problem is and the scale of the resources and manpower that would be needed to tackle it. “There are just not enough people out their willing to do it,” he said.

Speaking after last week’s National Conservation Council meeting, Burton said that the cull last year was so insignificant compared to the rate of reproduction that he now fears that efforts to make any kind of noticeable reduction in the population will require dozens of cullers working full time for several years.

During a five-month period both professional and amateur cullers killed less than 30,000 green iguanas, which is a mere drop in the bucket given that the population appears to be doubling year on year. Burton explained that even the best cullers can only kill around 150 per day, so dozens of people would need to be on the job.

He said that last year the DoE did not spend the funds allotted because there weren’t enough people “who can drop what they are doing to cull iguanas”. Pointing out that there are only three or four people who are set up to cull full time, he noted, “We need a lot more than that.”

The reptile expert, who spent a significant part of his career saving the endangered blue iguana and is now tasked with the reverse problem when it comes to the green iguana, explained that government could solve the problem through a dedicated control unit, something akin to the Mosquito Research and Control Unit.

The only other option would be to encourage the private sector pest control businesses, but either one would require far more funding than has been currently allocated, he said. “It is not impossible to tackle this,” he said, but it remains a significant problem.

Burton believes that it really requires a major contract and for Cayman to begin thinking about it as a potential  business. However, it is unlikely that any pest business would be willing to set up without some guarantees about a set term contract from the government, which would need to be supported by far more than the current budget.

The target of culling needs to  be between 600,000 and one million to make a meaningful attack on the green iguana population. DoE surveys last year confirmed the rapid increase in the population to well over one million. Burton said if it continues to rise at the same rate, this year’s survey, which will take place in August, is likely set to reach two million.

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Comments (52)

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  1. Mokes-for-all says:

    Allow anyone over the age of 18 to import an air rifle; and for those under the age of 18 to use one under supervision. By all means require mandatory safety training first, and enforce strict penalties for mis-use. Treating adults as adults, and allowing us to take care of the problem in our own neighbourhoods, will have a definite effect on the iguana problem.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The responsibility falls squarely on DOE, they’re the ones who created this mess in the first place. What was wrong with those Honduran fishermen keeping iguanas in cages as livestock, you didn’t have to tell them to let them go now did you?

  3. Scotty 9161073 says:

    Looking at job now to cull the blizzards..already have the pellet gun all legal..

  4. West bay Premier says:

    Someone said that slingshot are illegal in CI .
    CNS can you please confirm that . If so can you all see how fast Government is taking everything from you , and making you more dependant on the Government . If you leave them alone they are soon going to be taking the shirt of your back .

    CNS: I’ve passed the question about the legality of slingshots on to Auntie.

    • The Constitutional Critic says:

      According to the Customs website you need a license from the Police Commissioner to import a slingshot which makes it a restricted weapon (they could also be prohibited weapons because they fire projectiles) at the very least. I think they are trying to keep them out of the hands of kids
      As for the enforcement of those laws or regulations that is a another question,
      I have personally seen persons with slingshots but they rarely take them out of their yards for fear or reprisal

      You might be able to get away with owning them, but there are various other laws that deal with manufacturing, selling or leaving your private property with these items that could land you in trouble

      At the end of the day just stay safe and avoid the trouble that comes with them

    • Mokes-for-all says:

      Apparently anything that is capable of firing a projectile would be illegal without an appropriate licence; so that would include slingshots. Sad how far we’ve regressed as a civilisation. I remember the days when every kid made his or her own slingshot, and was proficient in its use. Yes, sometimes we were irresponsible, but that also ended in an appropriate punishment. Age 10 was when you got you first (not-very-powerful) BB gun, more often than not a Daisy Red Ryder. By your early teens you then progressed to a more powerful pellet gun. Responsible handling was learned at an early age, and adults were treated as adults. I hate having government think they are qualified to think for me, and regulate me on such things. It feels very draconian at times.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Culling is pointless. If the numbers are doubling year on year, a “one at a time” solution is never going to work. I see no alternative to employing “experts” to recommend a programme to achieve eradication – probably by methods similar to the Mosquito experiment.

  6. Anonymous says:

    One point in the solution – allow ‘safari’ type businesses with air rifles to hunt & shoot these pests. Lots of tourists & residents would pay to go shoot these critters these under supervision.

  7. Anonymous says:

    This was and will always remain the most naive and stupid idea of scientists who managed to convince idiot politicians that the green iguana problem was manageable.
    Over a million dollars is to be wasted on a project that will never be won. There are far more pressing examples of environmental damage being done by poachers and those on the Sandbar who are destroying our jewel in the tourism crown by mishandling stingrays, overloading the area and ignoring the rules the rest of us comply with as responsible commercial captains. Why isn’t this insane amount of money being spent on protecting our seas from those who are systematically destroying its life for profit, as a warped tourist attraction or to feed a drug habit? Not one boat on the Sandbar for months and everyone knows it. Conch and lobsters are being taken by the dozen and know one seems to care, many being fed to rich tourists as a taste of Cayman. Our people need tourism and the oceans that provide for us, we will have nothing if more money isn’t put into guarding it.
    Stop these disasterous experiments and spend the money where it is most needed.

  8. Anonymous says:

    For goodness sake allow licensed air rifles. I could net a dozen a day alone on my property

  9. Anonymous says:

    Air-rifles, that is the answer. Legalise these and let every property owner take care of their own problem. It is not as if the criminals don’t already have access to proper hardware, no one is going to hold up a store with a .22 air-rifle. In the UK, one of the countries in the world with the strictest gun laws, you are still allowed to own, carry and use an air-rifle at the age of 14. Time to get realistic about the differences between an air-rifle for controlling vermin and a serious firearm.

  10. Anonymous says:

    The Green Iguana has one natural predator in the Cayman Islands and his name is Dart. The simple solution is to continue to allow Dart to concrete over the Island. Job done.

  11. Shhhhhhhhhh. says:

    Why can’t they come up with a poison bait and simply feed the pests into extinction? I am sure that Cayman’s residents would be happy to help out! Just do not go eating them after !
    Or, maybe we need more work permits for those people who like to eat iguana !! LOL.

  12. Anonymous says:

    These little critters screw like Caribbean and Honduran men!

  13. Anonymous says:

    WTF? A dedicated unit? Wow the lights final turned on didn’t they! We got dedicated dog and cat catchers, roach and mosquito killers, gang banger rustlers, immigration police and custom officers and we just now figured this one out! GOOOOOOOOOO TEEEEEAAAAMMMM!

  14. Captain Obvious R. Ebanks says:

    New title: “Green iguana unit is completely obvious solution to problem of too many green iguanas”

  15. Anonymous says:

    Can’t Oxitech genetically engineer iguanas with a short lifespan and then short-lifespan introduce males? Reduce the lifespan by 50% and you’ll reduce the population by that much over time. Lifespan of a wild iguana is around 8 years apparently. So the problem isn’t just the high birthrate, it’s the low mortality rate.

    As they have no predators and are not part of the food chain there is no “threat” to humans (not that there is from GM mozzies but a lot of stupid people seem to think they can catch genes from another living thing, which is presumably why they are vegetarians… not realising that vegetables also have genes… that you cannot “catch”).

  16. Anonymous says:

    Shout out to Chef Ron at Tukka who has turned it into food to sell! I would rather eat iguana over a turtle any day. And use the skin to make leather goods to sell to tourists. Common Caymanians, you’re begging for jobs right?

    • Anonymous says:

      do the business plan….it won’t work.
      same reason cayman imports chicken meat/eggs

      • Anonymous says:

        How won’t it work? Honduras has made it work, so people in Cayman aren’t as willful as them? This chickens on this island eat shit. Like other dead chickens and nasty ass garbage. The people who have raised clean fed chickens on their land have done quite well selling meat and eggs. Guess you don’t buy local.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I’d get involved if we could relocate them….not cull them

  18. anonymous says:

    The problem I believe started and continues with plants coming from Florida where the problem exists that are not properly inspected by the Department of Agriculture. The eggs are amongst the potted plants then get transported across the island; hence, it is widespread and DOE has been late, very late in tackling the problem. You can trace every plant decease here back to Florida, including the one that turn your plants black and is causing havoc with blackening the roofs and exterior of buildings. Just Goggle it and you will see that Florida has the same problem. I know that some have suggested that they came here like pirates from Honduras but that seems very unlikely.

  19. Anonymous says:

    We took too long to change the Law to allow the killing of these pests.
    Maybe Oxitec can come up with a GM version of the green iguana for us. And I’m not being sarcastic here either! Birth control is the answer.

  20. SSM345 says:

    It would work if we were allowed to use effective tools; there’s a couple of cullers that do and look at the numbers they pull in whilst the rest of us are expected to chuck stones.

    Who wants to make a bet that a certain local who is licensed to use an air rifle heads up this unit and collects the bounty all for himself and his cronies??

  21. Caymanian iguanas says:

    Simple give 10 Caymanians 30k PA 5 cheap pickups with the right equipment to kill the iguanas and you’ve saved 500k pa.
    No chief
    No HR dept
    No financial controller and assistant
    No secretary
    No 10 week training course
    Just the the 10 staff.

    And if you want spend the millions, just double my suggestion.
    8m sure there are alot of younger Caymanians who would do this for the money.

    Problem solved without having to have a commission formed to figure out how to fix the problem.

    • Anonymous says:

      Result of your suggestion will be 10 Caymanians not doing much for $30,000 a year. Has to be incentivized or it just will not work.

    • Anonymous says:

      Hahahaha. Classic.

    • Anonymous says:

      Give this to the private sector. They will overcharge us, the project won’t finish on time, they won’t pay pension or health and they will employ work permit holders. No thanks!!

      • Anonymous says:

        Give it to the public sector and it won’t produce financials so we won’t know the cost, it will get started late or never and it will hire twice as many employees as is necessary.

    • West bay Premier says:

      Why don’t everyone just ignore the Government and make a slingshot and a tannery and start making wallets , purses , glass cases , and etc from the iguanas skin . And learn how to make jerky iguana. All Government is doing is destroy money , but you will be making it .

      How to make a slingshot, go into the bushes and find a good y shape branch at least one inch in diameter , cut top 5 inch , cut handle/ bottom about 6 -8in depend on your hand size , go on the beach and find old shoe cut the tongue out , if you can’t find
      one on the beach go home and get one from your dad shoes , make two cuts at narrow sides, then get two pieces of bicycle innertube that is stretchable , tie one end to the cut shoe tongue and the other ends to the y wood and there’s your slingshot.

    • Anonymous says:

      except that won’t solve the problem.

    • louis says:

      and a 2k bonus per month to the person who kills the most.

  22. Anonymous says:

    When people realize this animal is a perfectly edible vegetarian, the aokution becomes simple.

  23. Anonymous says:

    An awful thing to have to spend $$ on, but we need to…sooner rather than later. Get it done.

  24. George Kelly says:

    When people find they taste like chicken that will be the end of them. No, wait! That didn’t work for the chicken problem……….. Back to the drawing board.

  25. Anonymous says:

    get some international experts involved. cig can’t run a carpark ticketing machine.

    • Anonymous says:

      I need to do some business cards with that title. CIG will use me for everything.

    • Anonymous says:

      This comment keeps popping up on the Airport car park ticketing machine. It worked fine for me – I was there last week.

  26. Anonymous says:

    so the plan that everyone said was a waste of time, didn’t work????
    next step…more of the same plan????
    welcome to wonderland

  27. Anonymous says:

    Where do I apply?

  28. Anonymous says:

    I support such a unit. These iguanas are out of control. Crapping all over vehicles, walkways and stripping plants bare. They have upended the natural cycle and it needs to be corrected before there is no going back.

  29. Anonymous says:

    The answer has to be to take the eggs.

  30. Diogenes says:

    If dozens of cullers working full days in order to reign in this problem are needed surely this would be money well spent? The CIG will waste millions on consultants but when there is an actual avenue for change before them they are fiscally responsible?
    Are we just going to throw our hands up and say “Oh well… too late now”?
    If there is a chance to reduce the population are we honestly not even going to try? (Try again I guess)

    If an Iguana Control Unit is necessary, then so be it

    • Anonymous says:

      Subcontract it to Russia, they are good at killing things…legally or illegally…

    • Anonymous says:

      All along there have been hoards of locals (and their dogs) willing to work culling the iguanas. But because there was so much red tape and so little reward offered for let’s face it, quite an unpleasant task, very little interest was generated.

      We don’t have lizards or fowl where I live. My dog makes sure of that.

  31. Anonymous says:

    I really don’t understand the issue. Every article on this topic makes clear that we can throw money at it and it will go away. Not all of our problems can be solved that way so we are lucky with this one, because we have plenty of money. All that remains is for the money to be thrown so, Government, can you get on with it instead of reminding everyone of an iguana in the sun…thanks.

    • Anonymous says:

      They should throw the money at those who are willing from the unemployed. I am sure many would be glad for the work. In fact I know several who wanted to for the last two culls, had it not been for the need for unique markings and photographs of each iguana they culled. Why can’t they just be paid at Department of Agriculture by the weight, and DOA arrange for the carcasses to be safely incinerated?

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