New ideas needed to keep green iguanas in check

| 04/02/2022 | 78 Comments
Cayman News Service
Green Iguana adult (Photo by Mark Orr)

(CNS): An army of around 320 registered cullers have managed to kill almost 1.35 million invasive green iguanas over the last three years since the project first began, but there has been a decline in interest from cullers despite an increase in the bounty. This is largely because the estimated number of iguanas has dropped to around 87,000 from over 1.32 million when the project started in late 2018. The Department of Environment has said new ideas are now needed to find a long-term solution to this resilient pest.

After a brief Christmas break, culling operations resumed on 24 January with a limited army of around 80 regular cullers and a funding commitment to keep the project going until the end of next year. According to a report in this months Flicker, the DoE’s bimonthly magazine edited by Jane Haakonsson, to date the project has cost CI$7.9 million, which resulted in the culling of 1,349,919 iguanas since it started.

The number of green iguanas culled dropped dramatically in 2021, with just 87,361 killed compared to the culling rates of over 150,000 iguanas per month in the first few months of the programme. The numbers decreased exponentially in parallel with the declining population to an average of around 7,000 per month. Despite the increase in the bounty on each iguana from CI$5 to CI$7, cullers are losing interest as the animals get harder to find, something that the DoE’s iguana expert, Fred Burton, predicted when the cull was first rolled out.

The DoE said the bounty style approach has likely reached the limit of its effectiveness, which was supported by last year’s annual Green Iguana Survey.

When the cull began there were estimated to be around 1.32 million green iguanas on Grand Cayman. After 1.12 million iguanas were killed in the first 14 months of the project, by August 2020, the population had been cut to just 25,000. The population has bounced back a little, increasing in the August 2021 annual iguana survey to 87,000, not just because of the decline in cullers or the COVID lockdowns but because of an increasingly alert iguana population.

“The remarkable capacity of green iguanas to reproduce… when adequate controls are not in place, is clearly revealed” in the data for that survey, the DoE explained, adding that new hatchlings accounted for the majority of culled iguanas arriving at the station from August through to December last year.

The DoE said it is committed to ensuring that “the successes, effort and money invested to
date is not in vain”, and while eradication remains virtually impossible, a long-term answer now needs to be considered to prevent the numbers from reaching past levels, which posed a serious threat to the islands’ unique natural habitats.

The greens are by no means the only invasive species in the Cayman Islands. In the latest edition of Flicker, the department revealed details of the bio-security work now going on as a result of a Darwin Grant. With CI$535,000 in the bag until 2024, the DoE, in partnership with the Department of Agriculture (DoA), the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the University of Aberdeen researchers, will be establishing solid bio-security protocols and invasive species management.

Dealing with feral cats, chickens and rats and more obscure creatures, such as lobate lac scale, mealybug and fruit-fly, on the Sister Islands will be a primary part of the project.

For more details on controlling invasive species as well as other great features on hunting for orchids and the threat to the endangered pygmy blue butterfly from habitat loss see the latest edition of Flicker below. Back copies can be found here.

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Category: Land Habitat, Science & Nature

Comments (78)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Since we have such a cosy relationship with a company that makes designer handbags and leather goods, why not have them turn the iguanas into leather? Provide a little more if a Cayman link than a colour palette, and I am sure there would be ample opportunity for Kenny to spend even more public money.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Catch an iguana, put a swab in its mouth and send it off to one of those DNA testing places that will tell you your heritage.
    You will be amazed at the results.

  3. Nuts says:

    The chickens are driving me nuts. They have dug up my expensive foliage I paid a well known vigorous company to plant and maintain. They are able to fly in and out at will! I was surprised to see how far they can fly. Help any one?

    • Anonymous says:

      Put corn in a nearby public land, they just need food

    • Anonymous says:

      Far far worse destructive pests than iguanas.

    • Some Guy Wearing Flip Flops says:

      I live on the Brac. I have made a simple chicken trap, and we catch them, kill them, and eat them. Have consumed hundreds of them over the years. If we didn’t do so, the noisy [expletives] would keep us awake all night, and we wouldn’t be able to grow anything because they would eat it.

      I wouldn’t eat chickens that live on garbage, but those near my house live on weed/plant tops, bugs and the like. Most of them don’t have an ounce of fat on them, except for the hens, which fatten up as they are beginning to lay.

      Old roosters have purplish flesh, and are a tad more difficult to skin. We use them for soup and chicken stock, however there is nothing wrong with the younger roosters.

      Don’t pluck them, skin them. Really fast and easy. Chop off the wings at upper joint, feet, head, skin them, remove the innards, wash and stew them. Good groceries.

  4. Anonymous says:

    What about the annoying roosters ?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Even with the new government and their promises about looking after the ecology of our and and sea we are still on a path to pave over the country for financial gain. If they take it one step further and do away with live plants and move to artificial we will soon have on habitat that will support the iguanas and they will no longer be a problem. If you can read my sarcasm into this post well done.

    • Anonymous says:

      If the government were truly serious about the Cayman Islands environment, they would invest in professional enforcement teams and equipment fit for purpose.
      Green Iguanas have never been the disaster quoted by DOE. For a start they don’t eat birds eggs, otherwise the chicken population wouldn’t be so out of control. They can’t process protein, it can kill them.
      Development is the biggest threat, alongside greedy landowners, developers and over population. Start there.

      • Anonymous says:

        The drivers here pose more of threat than an iguana does. For example, I saw an iguana and the chap seemed harmless after seeing a jackass in a lowered black BMW saloon with a horrible exhaust racing around Camana Bay

      • Some Guy With Flip Flops says:

        You’re wrong about the bird eggs. The Greens on the Sister Islands have been directly responsible for much of the Booby Bird decline, and there is direct evidence to support it. The SIRI — Rock Iguanas are mostly vegetarians, but the Green Iguanas can and do eat almost anything. The Blue Iguanas are Rock Iguanas and likewise are mostly vegetarians.

        Greens also reproduce vastly faster than the native Rock Iguanas and are aboreal, as well as being aquatic, which makes them particularly difficult to find and kill. They are invasive. It’s not their fault, but they are a threat to native iguanas, as well as lots of other indigenous fauna.

        Suggest you speak with Jane Haakonsson at the DOE for much more in depth and better researched data than my own.

  6. Anonymous says:


  7. Anonymous says:

    Let us have air rifles and problem solved.

  8. Anonymous says:

    When we had wild dogs ,there was little iguanas, we removed the wild dogs and the iguanas exploded. Be careful how we remove the chickens…cockroaches will explode.

    • Anonymous says:

      You can’t give these people facts. They don’t know what to do with them.
      As an aside, I saw a bunch of hens find a cockroach nest down by Cayman Cargo. The roaches never stood a chance. When they made a run for it, one peck and it was lights out.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Maybe stop putting 3rd world edumacated persons in charge of everything? Just saying.

  10. Anonymous says:

    A pair of hawkes or mongoose for $1,000 dollars would solve the problem with the iguanas and chickens.

    • Anonymous says:

      And then the hawks or mongoose would be even bigger pests.
      Check the history of the mongoose in the Caribbean if you don’t know.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Give the security centers permits to cull.
    I’m sure another government contract won’t hurt.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’ll bet neither our Governor nor the Commissioner of Police nor any of our outrageously ineffectual enforcement agencies understand the subtleties of that comment.

      • Anonymous says:

        Let’s hope not. If they did and haven’t done anything, we might start accusing THEM of being corrupt.

  12. Anonymous says:

    The wild cats and dogs also a big issue and also need to be culled. Way to many animals on this island roaming

  13. Anonymous says:

    I remember they were teaching prisoners to make products from iguana skin. What happened to that?

    Iwonder how much hydrogen sulphide, methane, cadaverine, carbon dioxide and putrescine millions decomposing iguanas released in the atmosphere?

    I bet these gases in high concentrations pose a health threat to humans. We were never given information where and how millions dead iguanas were buried.

    Is Cayman International School still operates at the Dump’s foot?

    • Anonymous says:

      One of the problems observed in tanning the skins of green iguanas is that conventional tanning chemicals sometimes turns the skins blue. we can’t — for obvious reasons — be producing tanned skins that resemble our venerated Blue Iguanas.

  14. Anonymous says:

    How come we know the population of Iguanas, but not the population of the humans that live here?

  15. Jennie Stec says:

    I am looking to hire iguana hunter for our strata in Frank Sound. Please reach out to Jennie Stec 708-846-2818on whatsapp.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Very simple, this has been done for 100’s of years around the world

    Its called a _hunting license_ and make it a seasonal sport. Not only that, they are great eating. Can we please stop with the nanyism where we can’t even own a pellet rifle or a sling shot for f*cks sakes?

    And the iguana problem is not 1/10th as bad as the feral pest chickens! These thing dig up gardens, lawns, scratch car paint, shit on cars and roofs, screetch in the middle of the night constantly.


  17. Anonymous says:

    Stop the honduran fishing boats…and caymanian boats from in ..they bringing pregnant females from swan island…i hear a small black market has emmerged for females and egg consumption?

  18. Anonymous says:

    Was the cull supposed to be temporary so that we could “bend the curve”?

    Oh sorry, that was COVID mitigation steps.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Government makes it almost impossible to obtain a Firearms License. I have been trying now since last July and still no closer to a resolution. An air rifle is the only humane way to cull and it is the most efficient with no harmful environmental impact.

    • Anonymous says:

      True. They work well on cats in Little Cayman as well, given the Humane Society has blocked any viable alternative.

      • Anonymous says:

        We should just release hundreds of stray cats here in Grand Cayman. They eat iguanas and are very effective. They have almost finished the last endangered Little Cayman Rock iguanas and would love an opportunity to vary their diet. Green iguanas taste better anyway (if you cannot get a blue, which are the best!).

        • Anonymous says:

          Franz. You understand this is yet another world class shitshow on your watch, and it will soon be too late to save the Little Cayman Rock Iguana, or the local bird population? The world does not work on civil service timeframes.

    • Anonymous says:

      Good. The last thing we need to do is allow any firearm, even an air rifle to land in the hands of the criminal society that is growing by the day

      • Anonymous says:

        Criminals do not go through the application process to import air guns you moron. They simply pay $100 to smuggle them in on a drug boat.

    • Anonymous says:

      We should be able to rent an airgun by the day/week from govt. like a book from a library. With strict ID and sensible KYC. Twice a year and I could control the iguanas in my garden.

    • Some Guy With Flip Flops says:

      Having been through this process, I can tell you it is painfully lengthy and often frustrating. Diligence. I wanted an air rifle for the specific purpose of culling green iguanas AND feral chickens. Unless you are or know someone with social iron, you will only be able to get a low-powered air rifle, however with practice and an understanding of placement of the shot, you will be able to cull both critters.

      Both are good eating. The process will test your patience, but once you’ve FINally acquired your Licence, air rifle, accessories and whatever small amount of pellets you are allowed, it will be progressively easier the next time to renew and to order more ammo.

      Ordering and receiving pellets is a particularly taxing and vexing process, however that, too gets easier.

      Be respectful. Be tenacious. Keep on top of things and don’t allow paperwork to lapse. Much of the process involves the RCIPS, so it will benefit you to meet with the firearms officer of your district, so they can get a sense of you, and you can hopefully forge a working relationship, because that will REALLY help things.

      You will have to own and install a proper firearms safe. There is a security company in Grand Cayman that can set you up. If you aren’t prepared to have an end cost of KYD $2000-2500, there is little point in proceeding. It is completely contrary to the culling process to make it profoundly difficult and costly, but that is the way it is; I think if the process and expense were easier, we wouldn’t have a green iguana OR feral chicken problem. The process is expensive, but ultimately worth it if you are serious about culling. Good luck!

  20. Guido Marsupio says:

    How about Hav-A-Hart traps? Greens could be exterminated and anything else that wandered in could be released…

  21. Anonymous says:

    another beautiful caymankind story…..zzzzzzzzzzz

  22. Anonymous says:

    audit this nonsense asap.
    usual questions:
    how are they being killed?
    is it being done humanely?
    who is counting the numbers?
    how are the counting 1.3m iguans?
    where are the 1.3m dead iguanas?

    • Anonymous says:

      There is nothing humane about killing another living thing.

      No matter how it is done – death is death!

    • Anonymous says:

      I think even some very basic Google skills will answer all of these questions

    • Anonymous says:

      Do some research with readily available answers before asking stupid questions?

    • Anonymous says:

      11:47: Maybe go to the Dump and see it all in action? Pretty straightforward operation.

    • Anonymous says:

      You just need to be a TINY bit less lazy and search for all of the previous news articles covering those questions. All pretty straight forward, but over time some aspects have changed around counting/disposing to minimize risks exploiting weaknesses in the process as they were identified.

  23. Corruption is endemic says:

    Gov’t likes to spend money so why haven’t we hired a team of 10 people to be full time iguana hunters.

    Surely we could train dogs to help and use tech like drones to help survey them.

    I manage to dispose of a few every now and then but I know not everyone is comfortable or able to rid their own yard of the lil b@stards

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