Sister Island iguana in worrying decline

| 04/02/2020 | 28 Comments
Cayman News Service
Sister Islands Rock Iguana (Photo courtesy of the National Trust)

(CNS): A survey on Little Cayman of Sister Islands Rock Iguanas (Cyclura nubila caymanensis) has shown that the species is in serious trouble as a result of cats and cars as well as habitat loss. While this iguana is already listed as critically endangered, the latest count revealed a further unsustainable decline due to the impact of these combined threats. Reporting in the latest issue of Flicker, the magazine produced by the Department of Environment’s Terrestrial Resources Unit, Vaughn Bodden documents the depressing results.

“The total reproductive output is being reduced by high breeding adult mortality and recruitment is being reduced by high hatchling mortality,” he wrote.

To save this indigenous iguana, Bodden recommended that the feral cat population on Little Cayman must be controlled and responsible pet husbandry promoted. He also noted the need for enforcement of road safety laws and more consideration for the iguanas.

The population size in Little Cayman is now estimated to be 1,786, a substantial decline from the 2015 and 2014 surveys, when the population was said to be 2,915. Sadly, there may be even fewer, given the survey method.

Bodden explained in his report that the count was done mostly near to the roads, as the iguanas enjoy sunning themselves on the tarmac, and therefore the density models were probably biased on the high side. Given the loss of hatchlings, largely to cats, and the adults being run down by vehicles, there are real concerns about the preservation of this critically endangered reptile on Little Cayman.

To add to the bad news, the DoE believes that the population on Cayman Brac is in even more trouble. Although there is no current population estimate, they have reason to believe it is even lower but they will be conducting a survey there later this year to find out.

In the meantime, Bodden said, management actions are required on both islands to mitigate the threats and “safeguard this unique species from extinction”.

See the latest issue of Flicker on the DoE site here, which also includes updates on the green iguana cull, the parrot amnesty and the 2020 Caribbean Waterbird Census.

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Category: Land Habitat, Science & Nature

Comments (28)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    If cats are the problem, why weren’t they the green iguana solution?
    I expect it’s the same as saying that green iguanas feasted on birds eggs, yet we have a chicken problem. It was BS then and it’s BS now.
    Ching chings and other birds probably take more young lizards than any other species, but don’t let facts get in the way of a good scare story.

    • Anonymous says:

      First of all 12:04 the cat population in Grand cayman is a very different scenario to our sister islands. Whilst there may be several hundred wild cats here there were over one million green iguanas that lay up to 60+ eggs twice per year and the hatchlings can climb, swim and run. So the argument about the feral cats controlling the green iguanas is rubbish!
      In the sister islands the local rock iguanas cannot climb and their population is already low! When you ad this factor along with an increased number of feral cats this creates a very serious issue for the local rock iguanas along with other wildlife. You mention the fact about the Ching ching (Grackle) eating the lizards. This is true but understand that the ching chings are migratory within range and certain times of the year they are passing through (July-Sept) in large the numbers this is just nature.
      What we are dealing with is a domestic animal that has gone feral and overpopulated the sister islands feeding on the local wildlife. It is a very unfortunate situation and TNR (trap, neuter, release) programs do not make any sense as it will be time consuming and costly to manage plus we will end up with the same results with the cats eating the wildlife. The only way to move forward is to create a trapping/culling program. It is the DOE’s job to protect our local wildlife from threats such as this. Its unfortunate for the cats but our wildlife must come first in this sensitive matter.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Don’t forget the frigging chickens either! I stayed a couple of weeks in quite an upmarket expensive hotel in Cayman last year and my idealic rest around the pool was disturbed by noisy crowing chickens strutting their stuff! There were more chickens around the pool than guests! I felt I was in some 3rd world country.

    • Anonymous says:

      They only cater to who fits their agenda. They don’t care they’re thousands of feral chickens roamimg around defacating every and anywhere. Bird flu anybody? Never heard of iguana flu though.

  3. Anonymous says:

    These wild cats are the top predators on Little Cayman hence the population explosion. They are feeding not only on the young rock iguana but also the birds, frogs and lizards.
    D.O.E. needs to start setting traps for these wild cats then turn them over to DOA to be put down or they start a controlled culling program. That is the only way forward. They are wild and cannot be tamed (believe me I’ve tried it)!
    If it is not done now then the indigenous wildlife will dwindle to nothing.

    • Anonymous says:

      The DOE are trying.. but keep getting held back by animal charities screaming that euthanizing the cats is “cruel”

    • Anonymous says:

      BS . I have three feral cats (wild cats ) at home. Had them fixed and they stay inside every night. Although they may want go outside in the morning for a few hours, it’s ok. All three turned out to be house trained and lovable companions. By the way, we have 7 WILD CATS at work, . All fixed ( paid for by the company and staff ) Loverly work shop cats. Feed twice a day and we’ll watered. They follow us around the workshop and love to be stroked and picked up. All it takes is little time & effort. Sorry I have to prove you wrong.

      • Anonymous says:

        6:07….Whilst you may have had success with your three wild cats please explain how trying to capture and tame possibly hundreds of them when the local Humane society cant even handle their current situation with boarding! It also makes ZERO sense to capture, spay and release them because we will end up right back at square one with them eating the indigenous wildlife! It is a very unfortunate situation for both the cats and the local wildlife but I’m sorry to say that in this case local (indigenous) wildlife comes first!

  4. Anonymous says:

    How about a crossbreeding program to ensure the survival of the species?

    • Anonymous says:

      That is the last thing they wont! it would obliterate both species. They want 2 distinct species! crossbreeding is not the answer and the DOE are very concerned about greens breeding with the SIRI’s…

    • Aubrey Stillwell says:

      Cross breading will produce hybrids. Like Smiley at the Turtle Center. They would not be permitted to reproduce.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I blame the humane society. They stood in the way of a badly needed culling of cats 20 years ago when a substantial part of the issue was first identified. They offered no alternative solution. Can they please be given a month to catch and remove every stray cat in little Cayman, and at the end of that can the iguana caulkers please be sent in to shoot the cats and (ironically) save the iguanas?

    • Anonymous says:

      Well said! This is exactly what needs to happen!

    • Aubrey Stillwell says:

      If the humane society is the problem, why not round up all the cats and take them to the humane society. Let them decide what to do.

      • Anonymous says:

        It is easier, more effective, and cheaper to shoot the cats. If the humane society wants them, they can go and get them.

      • Anonymous says:

        1:57 These are not cats that can be re-homed. They are utterly feral and would not adapt to a home environment. The time frame in which cats can be socialized towards people is very short with 14 weeks generally being the cut off period. That means only kittens below this age could fit into home life. The rest would be too wild.

        • Aubrey Stillwell says:

          1:57 who said they would be “re-homed”? Let the humane society decide what to do with them..

          • Anonymous says:

            Catch and release is not an answer either. They would continue to kill Grand Cayman’s wildlife like small birds and our anoles. The humane society wouldn’t put them to sleep. So not sure they should be in charge of making any decision over them..

          • Aubrey Stillwell says:

            Oh, hey, 1:57 – We took in a street cat at age 18 months. He was our family cat for 16 years. If you are going to pontificate, do it on something you know about.

            • Anonymous says:

              11:57 have you considered that maybe your cat was a house cat that was abandoned before you adopted him? Might have been the only reason why you were able to take him in. I am not pontificating. Their has been research done into this and even shelters across the globe recommend only trying to re-home kittens. You can hardly use you one rare case scenario to justify that all street cats are adoptable. also we are talking about “ferral” cats not street cats. There is a difference. Look it up. But then if you want to take in all of the ferral cats in Little Cayman I hope you have some good disinfectant for all those bites and scratches you will receive. Septicaemia is not fun 😉

  6. TFOH says:

    ‘has shown that the species is in serious trouble as a result of cats and cars as well as habitat loss’

    Basically humans is the culprit but let’s blame the cars, cats and habitat loss. Let’s cast the blame far from us because if it wasn’t for those pesky cats, mean cars and a habitat that doesn’t care the iguanas would live forever in harmony and peace.

    • Anonymous says:

      While I personally advocate for a human culling program, it doesn’t go down well politically so a cat culling is the next best option.

    • Anonymous says:

      5:22 the problem genuinely is cats… Cats brought in by PEOPLE but cats none the less. They need to be controlled. Another major threat is them being hit by vehicles. You can blame this purely on people. This isn’t a case of taking “blame” away from people. But you cant at the same time not look at other factors affecting these iguanas. Cats are a terrible blight on this little island. The cats eat the young hatchling iguanas. and idiots in cars kill adults. As it would have been people who introduced the cats onto the island in the first place no one is saying it’s not humans fault. But running around trying to find who to “blame” isnt a productive solution. Removing the cats and limiting development and car usage would be more productive.

    • Howard Peterson says:

      Sanctuaries is the solution. Culling the cats will create other issues. People love cats more than iguanas. But man and nature can coexist in harmony. We learnt a lot about the invasive green iguana. How many of know why they thrived to the point of being culled. Sanctuaries will bring back the endangered iguanas there coupled with the food that allows this growth in population. A sanctuary with nothing will not cut it.

      • Anonymous says:

        Howard Peterson: Although sanctuaries provide a certain amount of protection they dont really fix the initial problems. Cats and dogs can still get into the sanctuaries like the Salina in Grand Cayman and Blues are still killed by both. We know very well why the green iguana has thrived here. It has no natural predators to control its numbers in Cayman. In its native South and central american snakes and birds of prey keep their numbers in check but here that is not the case. There have been some recording of racers eating hatchlings but this is rare. Im afraid the cats in Little Cayman need to be removed. These are not peoples cuddly house cats. They are extremely feral and aggressive and cannot be allowed to continue living in Little Cayman. I love cats. I had an amazing little cat for 15 years who i loved to pieces and miss every day. But she was an indoor cat and wash not given the chance to decimate Cayman’s native wildlife. The cats are also directly responsible for the decline in seabird numbers in Little. This cannot be allowed to continue I’m afraid.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Just like the rest of Cayman’s natives.

  8. ~s3k says:

    As a teen one of my friends picked up a rock to hit one. Told him if he hit the iguana, I going hit him.

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