DoE needs info to stop 2020 iguana doomsday

| 31/07/2018 | 70 Comments
Cayman News Service

Green iguana cullers at work

(CNS): With only CI$1.1 million in the budget and a doomsday scenario of around 4.6 million green iguanas on Grand Cayman by 2020, the Department of Environment is urging everyone interested in adapting an existing business or starting a new one to help remove the pest to take part over the next ten days in a ‘request for information’ process. DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie explained that this is the first step in a process she hopes will lead to contracts for cullers who can kill significant enough numbers to stop the yearly doubling of the population. 

“It’s really just a plea in the first instance,” she said, as she urged people to visit the website and take a look at the proposals and fill in the questionnaire. “This step of the project has commenced at the time of the implementation of the new procurement law so we are following the process. We really don’t have a good handle on who would be interested and what the local capacity is for cullers or what appetite there is to expand operations among existing cullers. We see this as a fact-finding mission.”

Hoping to identify people in the market that can now or, given the incentive, could do this, the DoE needs to collect information, which will also provide the department with ammunition to seek more funding, as the current allocation may not be enough. But the budget “is what it is”, Ebanks-Petrie said, “and it is enough to get things moving”.

After two years of collecting data on culling, the DoE has concluded that the only way it will be able to cull the numbers needed is to create a new business opportunity in the private sector. Ebanks-Petrie said that there are people already working in the business on a small-scale, fuelled by the demand from tourist accommodation owners wanting to keep their sites as free as possible of the pest that is literally eating its way through the natural resources of the Cayman Islands.

“We are hoping that this market will respond to the problem, but the RFI is expected to help us gauge what they can do and what they are willing to do. We believe there is a substantial opportunity for the development of a sustainable culling business,” the DoE Director added, explaining that anyone already in the business will need to expand a lot to meet the demands of a full-scale national cull.

The numbers for a concentrated and successful cull are staggering. Last year’s survey counted well over one million green iguanas, and with this year’s count about to start, the results are expected to show that by the end of this summer there will be more than 2 million green iguanas on the island.

In the long term, without a focused cull by 2020 — just two years away — researchers predict there will be more than 4.6 million iguanas here — something of a doomsday situation for the environment.

Explaining the gargantuan task ahead, DoE Deputy Director Tim Austin said that the goal is to begin the next phase of the cull around September and kill at least 1.4 million animals over the following two years. But past experience of the culls over the last two years has shown how difficult it is to achieve even modest numbers.

In the 2016 cull, which he described as extremely intense, the most iguanas a team of two cullers ever managed to kill in one day was 300. Austin said those cullers were “utterly exhausted”, and the entire process revealed just how difficult things were when after two months around 15 people in a concerted effort managed to kill fewer than 20,000 green iguanas. “It was just a drop in the bucket,” Austin noted.

He explained that in order to get ahead of the population increase and turn the tide towards decreasing the numbers, cullers will need to kill at least 2,000 per day which means dozens of people will need to be working on the cull full-time for at least the first two years. As the DoE does not have the capacity or the budget to employ full-time cullers that could get anywhere near the numbers needed, the private sector is the only solution.

“We have racked our brains on how best to deal with this,” Austin said, adding that the project was much more complicated than people realise. “We are using public funds and the process must be properly managed in a responsible, controlled, sustainable way,” he said, pointing to the challenge of disposing of thousands of iguana carcasses every day, as well as killing them in the first place.

The current budget will enable the DoE to cull the targeted 2,000 per day over the next year but he said that realistically, to get on top of the massive numbers, the target would be 6,000 a day, which leads to the question of capacity and how many people and businesses are willing to get involved.

How long it will take to bring the numbers down to where they are no longer having a detrimental impact on the environment is still an open question, but complete eradication now seems impossible, given the iguanas’ prolific breeding and incredible adaptability.

Ebanks-Petrie said that what the department learned over the last two years will inform the process, as they move towards contracts next month with a view to begin the concentrated cull by September. She said the department was still very keen to inspire local cullers to create sustainable businesses rather than the DoE having to looking overseas. If this latest outreach reveals that Cayman does not have the capacity, then they may have to re-think the project, but until they reach out to everyone and find out who is willing to take up the challenge locally, they are not yet considering outside expertise.

Ebanks-Petrie urged people to engage with the DoE about what they can do, or to go online to look at the RFI as soon as possible and submit their information. She said the DoE was targeting people who are already in the iguana-removal business, the cullers from previous culls, as well as those who have an idea on how they could create a business to get involved even if they don’t yet have a company.

“We really need an engagement with the community on this to help us tackle the problem,” Ebanks-Petrie said, as she urged people to spread the word and encourage those who think they can help to visit the website now.

See the details of the RFI on the procurement site here

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Category: Land Habitat, Science & Nature

Comments (70)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Just what we need, another excuse to be barbaric….

  2. Anonymous says:

    if you want a view…buy a boat…dont soend 1.3 mil of people money for foolishness

  3. Noah says:

    Just make sure to keep back two please. There’s some rain in the forecast.

  4. Concerned Citizen says:

    Careful we don’t upset Godzilla by killing his creations.

  5. Christopher says:

    Why not treat the weapons issue like the military. Have the government buy the air guns and ammo then issue them to the licensed people for the season. After the season the guns are returned to storage to be reused.

    • Anonymous says:

      No guns of any kind. This crap will be used in robberies.

      • G.towner says:


        Government can create a Culling Department (to cull lionfish, iguanas, etc…) like they have a Mosquitoe Unit, but they seem too cheap it.

        And so we are going to pay dearly for being cheap!

  6. Anonymous says:

    We hear an awful lot about the green iguana being an environmental pest, but no one has presented a factual argument to support the claim.
    Sure, they crap everywhere and they eat non indigenous plants in people’s gardens, but what are they actually damaging in environmental terms?
    The blue is said to be making an heroic return, despite thousands of their green counterparts invading the eastern districts. The green is also a veggie, unable to process protein, so wide spread reptile or bird slaughter is off the table. What is it that’s causing the hysteria when over fed, over medicated and undereducated cruise passengers cause far more damage to our environment on a daily basis, and no one raises an eyebrow?

    • Anonymous says:

      Tourist spend money… Iguanas don’t!

    • Anonymous says:

      They should be marketed as food! I won’t touch it but I won’t eat turtle or land crab either.

    • Anonymous says:

      Trust me,
      You have no idea.

    • Anonymous says:

      Posts like this are proof that even the most ignorant fool believes they have something to contribute to the public discourse. It’s like me going, “What? The moon isn’t made of cheese? Well I think we should still send those 2 million iguanas to space in a giant rocket. Mars maybe.”

  7. Anonymous says:

    Culling is a start but DOE must get to the source. Greenie eggs coming in via all this aggregate that we are importing. Unfiltered, unchecked and filling up our island with green iguanas.

    Look at the import process.

  8. Anonymous says:

    OK I am willing to visit with my dog. For a small, but generous fee she will round up and kill them all in a couple of hours. No iguanas or wild fowl here. 🙂

  9. Anonymous says:

    If every teenager (and adult) with a clean police record was allowed an air rifle, if they wanted one, the problem would probably be resolved in relatively short order. As long as air rifles/pistols are regarded as the same as a Glock or Sig nothing will happen.

    • Anonymous says:

      Imagine being in town hearing a gunshot going off and thinking “Yep! They got a next iguana!” LOL

  10. Anonymous says:

    Covert the tire shredder to a pet food machine. Pureed Iguana!

  11. Anonymous says:

    So if I kill them all can I have the $1.1?

    • Anonymous says:

      We should investigate why other countries do not have this problem and use that knowledge to get rid of them. How about birth control for Iguanas?

      • Anonymous says:

        Tried that with mosquitos and the peanut gallery went nuts.

      • Caymanian Patriot says:

        I can tell you right now that some places in the world wouldn’t see this as a problem, but a godsend solution to their food shortage. We too golden spoon fed to eat iguana, pigeon, wild rabbit…. all the people want today is their local beef from burger king… not like we can hunt the above animals anyway since a slingshot is still illegal in the eyes of the law here.

        They wanna take your weapons away until that fateful day control is lost and the only solution is to arm the people. You see where making absurd laws gets you? Running in circles.

  12. anonymous says:

    Government need to buy second hand pick up, air riffle, ammunitions and hire staff that will be paid by hour or salary. My landlord is cheap and do not want call a culler and pay him to get them killed. So he just let them there.

  13. Anonymous says:

    jeepers…civil service have finally admitted they haven’t got a clue….

  14. JAY KY-3 says:

    I can only imagine how much struggle it must be just to obtain the air rifle as a law abiding citizen with no bad record.

    • Anonymous says:

      Almost impossible! And if you get it so much restrictions and red tape of where you can use etc. It should not be so hard and so much restrictions on simple air rifles for law abiding citizen to help with this growing problem!

      • Larry bang says:

        Agree completely. I am retired now and would be glad to help with the problem but the cost and red tape are too much for the air rifle permit. Need to have a one page application and no import duty on air rifles

  15. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps Government needs to change their priorities and instead of having so many civil servants drive spanking new full cabin pick-up trucks, they put them in used economical sized vehicles and voila – more funds may be available to preserve and safe our environment.

    Also, who on earth authorized spending on a board walk in South Sound when farmers are fighting daily against this pest to grow produce locally?

  16. Anonymous says:

    invasion of the dinosaurs!!!???? virtually impossible…it like trying to erradicate mosquitoes??? good luck with that…

  17. Anonymous says:

    Too many iguanas, not enough marksmen with BB guns. Simple

  18. Anonymous says:

    This nonsense will never cull all greenies, they here, get over it. More get killed on the road than will ever be culled by idiots with guns or traps. Spend that money on stopping turtle, lobster and conch poachers who are raping this island for their own profit.
    Why no DOE boats on Sandbar, oh yea, money spent on chasing greenies, are you nuts?

    • Anonymous says:

      Excuse me 11:51pm, but why are you calling people that you do not know ‘idiots’? Just because someone is trying to make an effort to cull with guns or traps they’re an idiot? Calm the eF down, put your beer down and go to bed.

      • Anonymous says:

        I know an idiot when I hear one. And trying to cull a million iguanas in two years is an idiotic suggestion when our indigenous wildlife is suffering due to the allocation of funds from anti poaching and protection of marine parks.
        So you calm the EF down and get a dose of reality, this is about being seen to do something, knowing full well that it’s far too late and just throwing money down the drain.

    • Anonymous says:

      Now, now, 11:51. That’s enough simpleton talk! Time to take your medication and go to bed……..

  19. Leroy Parker says:

    y’all need to have iguana festival cooking the delicacy and make people see the tremendous savings on purchasing frozen meat that’s shipped in from God knows where. People will acquire the taste as they have for Lion Fish and before you know it. Iguanas will be so that they will become extinct.

    • West Bay Premier says:

      This is a real good business opportunity 2 million iguanas and 1.5 million dollars, and she Ms Ebanks really stressed that . I wonder if you have to get a license to kill them on your own property too . What ever happened with the iguana export company ? The government shut them down before they got started .

    • Anonymous says:

      There was a Bizarre Foods episode lately showing them being cooked in the Keys & they were said to be real good

  20. BeaumontZodecloun says:

    Here is some fact-finding for you Miss Gina. One person, the head of one company here controls who can and does get airgun permits. Those that work for him get them …. surprise surprise!!! Those that don’t……… so, sorry, sucks to be you.

    Grand Cayman especially, but all three islands are in dire peril, and if we leave the vetting of those who can get permits to import and air rifle entirely in the hands of those who make a living from culling, then we will always be behind the curve.

    Make it significantly easier for law-abiding citizens to acquire air rifles. The culling can and is done by using nooses, but Grand Cayman is too far gone for that to be the sole solution. We need shooters and lots of them, or it will be hopeless.

    This is a no-brainer. You limit the number of cullers, you limit the impact on the green iguana population.

    • Anonymous says:

      Aww… leave the Fast E alone..

    • Anonymous says:

      Well said Beaumont!!

      We really do need a community solution to the problem as admitted by Ms Ebanks-Petrie, who states that having racked their brains “We really need an engagement with the community on this to help us tackle the problem,”

      The UK, which has some of the toughest gun laws in the world, allows purchase of air rifles by anyone over 18, so clearly even the paranoid Brits have established air rifles do not materially contribute to any crime issues.

      If the community recognizes (as we do) that the iguana problem requires all hands on deck, and if every home-owner or other citizen that could pass a minimal hurdle (e.g. obtain a police clearance certificate) could buy an air rifle, we could make a significant dent in the problem. It would not cost the government ANYTHING and they could even make money from it, depending on the permit requirements (although the more money and, worse still, associated bureaucracy, it requires the less the uptake).

      This is the only solution that is viable, it costs no money to Government and over time we could turn the tide if, say, 5,000 responsible volunteer-cullers had air rifles they could use 365 days a year. It’s certainly possible, as, for example, iguanas seem to be a rarity in say Guanaja. Maybe we could even turn the extermination of this national menace into a local sport.

      That we are prevented from this, the only solution, by one person’s personal benefit (as described above) is, if true, tragic and resulting in massive government expenditure to NOT achieve the desired result. As stated, the real solution is in fact a no brainer.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Ship them to Honduras…. Or since some people on here would rather poach turtle, conch, and lobster because “they hungry” inform them iguana is edible and free!

  22. Anonymous says:

    If a team of 2 can kill 300 at most per day then 10 people could kill at most 3000 per day
    Now I understand that the potential maximum wouldn’t be met every day so I would expect the CIG to overshoot the number of persons they think they would need to ensure we can reach the needed 2,000 per day killed every day

    25 people according to the numbers should be able to kill around 4k per day at max and should easily be able to meet the 2k per day requirements to keep them under control

    Is the CIG really going to claim they cant hire 20-25 people to kill iguanas for the preservation of our natural environment but they can spend 1.3 million on a boardwalk and only god knows how much on a pier

  23. Anonymous says:

    They need to start issuing all people with a clean police clearance who are interested in a B.B. gun an opportunity to purchase one, these things are in places that make it impossible to get with a stick and looop if you have a BB gun at least you can kill them even if you can reach them otherwise. , maybe government will hire a consultant to tell them this is probably the best how

    • Point Taken but ..... says:

      The only problem is, Opportunists will use the guns to commit crime. Better to have BB or airguns in the hands of train and licensed personell.

      Another thing, many civilians not train will aim their guns horizontally at their target, and this could become dangerous. When you use a gun, you dont shoot horizontally at your target. There is a serious risk. Someone could be behind a bush, a tree, even a boarded wall! And so many folk dont know how a bullet can bounce off a harder object. It is safe to shoot a target upward in a tree, or downward on the earthy ground.

      So its a no no… not a good idea to start granting people BB or pellet guns.

      • JAR says:

        BB/pellet guns are free to use and purchase in the U.K . There has only been one case of an actual death by accident and that was recent.

        The best solution is a pellet gun even better a rifle, take a look at pest control of rats etc on you tube. The army cadets can be taught to use them and also start up clubs.

        • Anonymous says:

          There have been many deaths in the UK with air rifles, they are also very highly restricted as to where they can be used.
          Fine to use in country, illegal too close to paths and roads and in built up areas.

      • Anonymous says:

        Then limit it to Air rifles, pretty sure no-one is going to carry a 3 foot long gun to rob a store.

      • Anonymous says:

        Be more effective to use it as a club than a gun against people. Make airguns and BB guns available to the public now please! I need to get these buggers off my lawn!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      The Ministry of the Environment and DoE have wasted nearly 3 years wringing their hands and crying “Woe is me, what are we going to do? ” Analysing this, examining that, investigating here, examining there and developing business cases. Meanwhile the green iguana numbers continue to multiply exponentially. And still they are clueless as what to do. Well here’s a novel idea: JUST START KILLING THE BLOODY GREEN PEST ALREADY. I swear when people become civil servants they lose touch with reality and jettison all common sense.

      • Anonymous says:

        9:32 You keeping missing the point the DOE is making. To start killing them will achieve absolutely nothing unless you are killing them faster than they can reproduce. It just like asking someone to empty your cistern while it is raining. You can bail all day but if you are not bailing faster than the rain is falling you will achieve nothing. Get it?

        I bet that if the DOE had spent $1m and didn’t reduce the iguana population we would he complaining of a waste of money.

        • Answer is in Science says:

          Just do with them what we did with the mosquitoes. Genetically modify the males. Get ideas from scientist.

    • BeaumontZodecloun says:

      A bb gun won’t cut it. Many of the green iguanas that are shot require more than one head shot, and that’s a .22 calibre air gun. The iguanas have small brains, but if hit, they are done. If not, they live.

      The nooses are effective up to the reach of the noose, and mostly for nighttime hunts when the iguanas are lethargic. Good luck trying to noose a scampering green iguana in the daytime. It has and can be done.

      • Anonymous says:

        An airgun powerful enough to kill or at least slow down an iguana enough to catch it. They can hit the target with the same power as a .22. They even make 50 caliber airgun that would be perfect for this job.

        • Anonymous says:

          Yes, they would be perfect for the job, however you or I will not be allowed such an air rlfle — only a low-powered .22 calibre. Still, with accurate shooting, the green iguanas can be culled. We need LOTS of shooters, and if they have passed police clearance and other requirements, we know we have these low-powered rifles in the right hands.

      • Debbie does Dullards says:

        Beaumont Honey Pie
        You must be from South Texas. Some folks have small brains and this is the problem. We need guns for the pests.

    • Anonymous says:

      Government caused the problem, by allowing pet shops to sell them and procrastinating to get rid of the nuisances when the pests first stared to surface. Build a boardwalk for the rich and famous but no money rid the islands of unwanted pests.
      No foresight, always after the fact.

      • WeWantOutGovernorBackNow says:

        Your good comment is well taken, but please don’t say the government buit a boardwalk for the rich and famous. After all, it is really a wide sidewalk, and nothing more. — Well, maybe a very expensive wide sidewalk!

        • Anonymous says:

          Its a PAVEMENT, we are not in America!!!

          • Anonymous says:

            You’re a DOUCHE! Not everyone was influenced by the same country does not everyone will use the same vernacular.

          • Anonymous says:

            Sorry, but you do not spend enough money nor have enough people here to preserve your particular idioms.

      • Anonymous says:

        not only were the pet shops selling them…..they were also importing them.

      • Anonymous says:

        Again with this rich n famous shit about that short boardwalk! You’re hilariously delusional. A local kayak vendor and the people who book that excursion are the main ones that’ll stand on it outside of the people exercising in SS. They could have just put concrete down instead of a raised board walk but it’s done so stop complaining. Try and stop other idiotic projects before they start and stop wasting your breath on this one.

        • Anonymous says:

          That side walk or board walk whatever it is, was mostly put there to keep away locals from camping , we’re not good enough to camp in front of the rich and mighty …….how sad that our beautiful little humble paradise has become a concret jungle . And the rest of us stand by and let it slide.

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