Reduced army of cullers reining back iguanas

| 01/06/2020 | 30 Comments
Cayman News Service
Juvenile green iguana (Photo by Mark Orr)

(CNS): Measures taken by government to curb the spread of COVID-19 put the nationwide green iguana cull on hold for several weeks, just as the pesky reptile moved into its breeding season. With exemptions now in place for the consultants managing the cull and around 50 top cullers, war on this invasive species has restarted. However, the shutdown set the project back significantly, as many iguanas have already laid their first batch of eggs.

In an effort to regain control of the numbers, the Department of Environment, working with cull managers Cornwall Consulting, has laid out strict protocols for the reduced army of cullers, who must now call ahead to make an appointment to drop off carcasses at the dump, DoE Deputy Director Tim Austin told CNS.

With social distancing in mind, only one culler is allowed to deliver at a time and the paperwork had been replaced with online documentation.

Cullers officially registered with the programme at the beginning of this year were forced to stop operations on 24 March as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown. This was particularly bad timing for the cull because of the need to target breeding adults before they reproduce to head off a potential population explosion later this year.

“April and May would normally be critical months in the cull cycle as not only are breeding iguanas more active as they seek a mate, the reduction in leaf cover brought on by the end of the dry season also increases their visibility,” according to an article in the latest issue of the DoE’s online magazine, Flicker.

Since the programme started in October 2018, cullers had managed to rid Grand Cayman of almost 1.2 million green iguanas. But to ensure that effort is not wasted, it is important to get cullers out again as soon as possible. So, after curfew restrictions were eased and because the work is largely done by people working alone and outdoors, the project secured exemptions last week to allow the consultants to begin receiving carcasses and for some cullers to work.

Although only the top cullers are back on the job, the average daily number of iguanas killed is already 425, which compares favourably to the 470 average just before the shutdown.

The DoE experts have estimated that during the six weeks when cullers were unable to hunt, around 16,000 iguanas thrived instead of died and now had an opportunity to breed. While cullers are bringing in iguanas with eggs to the culling station, some have already laid.

“An intensive culling effort is needed to make up for lost time and to remove iguanas before the nests are in the ground,” Austin said.

The department is hoping that, given the reduction in economic and tourist activity, iguana culling may represent a lucrative alternative as soon as more restrictions are lifted and the DoE can begin a new registration of Caymanians to help fill the gap created by the lockdown.

The curfew has also restricted plans to conduct a field survey of the iguana population, as DoE staff have been working from home like many other civil servants. They survey, which was planned for April, was intended to measure the impact of the cull on the population, which would direct the future effort to bring this invasive species to a long-term manageable level.

DoE-led culls in the Sister Islands were also abandoned due to inter-island travel restrictions, but volunteers on both Little Cayman and Cayman Brac have been keeping up the pressure by following up on any reported sightings.

Biosecurity efforts continue as normal in Little Cayman. Every time the barge docks from either Grand Cayman or Cayman Brac it is inspected for green iguanas or any other stowaway wildlife.

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Category: Land Habitat, Science & Nature

Comments (30)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    the scheme works.
    but an audit would reveal the usual level of civil service mismanagement and incomptence

  2. Anonymous says:

    They have done a fine job for us and our island. Now the fowls?

    • Anonymous says:

      I would like to see something done about the number of chicken coops that are popping up in people’s back yards. I’m sure they have not even consulted the Cayman Planning Department or their neighbors. They have no regard for people who live next door.

      If the Coops are not cleaned properly it sends off a very strong smell of ammonia and the flies that harbour around these coops are unreal. I cannot even go into my backyard without getting the smell of ammonia on my skin. It smells so bad that I have to come in and take a shower right away.

      These Chickens are also loaded with Fleas. The Fleas have also taken over my Yard and now the stench from the Coop is now becoming unbearable. When the wind comes from the ENE it is even worse with the Smell + Summer is now here and that is even going to make it more unbearable with the Fleas and the Ammonia smell.

      Are Chicken Coops legal in Sub Divisions in Cayman? If not something has to be done to remedy the situation. These things only happen in Cayman and people tend to do whatever they please with any regards for their neighbourhood.

  3. Anonymous says:

    When can they start culling the feral cats on Little Cayman?

    • Anonymous says:

      When can they start providing an accurate audit of the $$ spent on this boondoggle? WE DEMAND TRANSPARENCY!

    • Anonymous says:

      Just remove all the habitat. It’s a proven way to kill any species. Been working so far.

    • Animal lover says:

      No! What is best is trap/spay/neuter! We do this where I live & it works – but only if people will cooperate & help out. Unfortunately many don’t. My husband & I help. Our little ferals that we have adopted are all fixed!!! We care for em & are on the lookout for other ferals around here that need to be caught & fixed also. Then those are released back to where they were trapped & hopefully fed. We try to feed other ones much as possible & wish more of our community would help out.

  4. From a Little voice says:

    Signs of the times. We haven’t been too generous with our environment. Once they ruled on our shores before we came here. Now they will reign again. I understand in Africa, in the Bantu tribe, the land overtaken by lizards means danger coming. These lizards are eating the leaves off our trees, our fruits, becoming a pest … when last did we offer our produce to those in need? We are now challenged to share our things to others before they eat them up. Or, we may have to be forced to eat them! We have neglected what our land can produced and relied on the supermarkets. We cut down trees and vegetations, so these pest must find people’s yards and birds rest on power lines. Because of our sins against nature. Wake up, Cayman.

    • Anonymous says:

      The green iguanas aren’t native to the Cayman Islands. Where are you getting your facts?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Almost forgot about iguanas…haven’t seen any in months!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Can they take care of the chickens too. Even if it’s just the Roosters.

  7. BeaumontZodecloun says:

    Cullers on all three islands — when you are able, do your thing, and we’ll collectively appreciate you. Shout out to the Sister Islands who do a thankless task for no money. Thank you!!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Me thinks we shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds… why can’t we open a factory where we sell the meat to people and use the skin for leather goods? Aren’t there about 50 people that own jet skis out of a job?

    • Anonymous says:

      Any time the private sector want to step up, go right ahead and open that processing plant up.

      (Govt. shouldn’t be business. If the private sector can do it, government should not, if the business is uneconomical for the private sector the government definitely should not. Culling is a social/ecological need, not a business like processing the carcasses would be.)

  9. Anonymous says:

    How does DoE establish these “estimates” of iguana population? They’re most likely always underestimating by far! I recall just about 2 years ago (just months before the culling began) DoE/Mr. Austin published estimates of a total population of approx. 200,000. Good Lord! We know that many times that number were culled. Now, they estimate that “16,000 thrived” during the lock-down cessation. Is that suggesting that there were only approximately 16K lizards left when the culling had to pause? That’s probably more like the number which reside in the ponds behind the Airport Post Office alone!

    Mr. Austin, do you care to reveal your method of estimating iguana population and perhaps be more accurate?!

    • Anonymous says:

      Not complicated. If they had been culling they could have killed as many a day as they are doing now. Since those ones weren’t killed they had a chance to mate and lay eggs.

    • Anonymous says:

      You’re sure it wasn’t 2,000,000? That’s what I recall. 200,000 in my neck of the woods alone.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Could do with some professionals to cut government employee numbers!

    • Anonymous says:

      Who then become unemployed, like you the complainer, and may seek NAU that still results in tax expenditure that you’re complaining about. Suck it up.

  11. Anon says:

    I would like a top culler to call at 65 Phelan Cl G.T. (opposite Rubis) if he wants some iguanas.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Why only some of the cullers? Special treatment or just making it difficult for some of them to get back out there…
    Ahhhh!! It’s good to have friends in high places, eh!

    • Anonymous says:

      Why? Because its a lockdown and CurfewTime didn’t want even the limited culling to start. It took them some fast talking to get even us approved. As for why us? Because the rest weren’t really into it in the first place. You want iguanas culled, call the best not the rest.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Now the virus vessel’s will be in and out of every property, day and night.

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