We are scientists

| 25/01/2023 | 54 Comments

The Cayman Islands Department of Environment writes: We are tasked with protecting first and foremost the plants and animals which belong to the Cayman Islands. We have researchers and scientists from various fields of study who work with and assist us in finding out what is happening in our lands and beaches, forests and cliffs, reefs and deep waters so we can see the bigger picture and make informed decisions.

Scientific monitoring of wildlife is not simple. It takes a great deal of funds, time and patience to get out in the field, install or retrieve devices, wait with binoculars, and record sightings, details, times and coordinates for every event, even if nothing happened. All this data helps us understand what is happening (or not happening) in all those spaces and times when no one is there to record it.

While we can’t make assumptions, we can make educated decisions based on the evidence we have found along with other forms of evidence such as tracks, faeces, feathers, fur, citizen reports or even a lack of these things.

Thousands of brown booby birds and nests used to fill the skies and cover the cliff face and edge all along the eastern tip of the Brac Bluff. Now there are less than 50 nesting pairs. We will lose them forever if we don’t reduce their threats now.

Evidence has been found on multiple occasions of booby eggs, chicks and parents dying as a result of cat predation. This has been shown with camera imagery, fur, tracks, faeces and other indicators. Losing our brown booby colony is not the only problem we face as a nation, and controlling the alien predators they face, such as feral cats and rats, isn’t the only solution. But to ignore what we know is contributing to their demise doesn’t make sense.

We can’t let some of the original inhabitants of these islands die without at least knowing we did everything we could to save them. It’s just not, well, in our nature.


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Category: Land Habitat, Science & Nature, Viewpoint

Comments (54)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Who do I call for all the feral kids in Prospect?

  2. Anonymous says:

    @DOE/Viewpoint:
    Please allow me to present The Rest of the Story:

    The DOE has been around for thirty years this year.
    The Booby bird population was in severe decline well before the DOE came to be. The decline has been known to the “scientists” in the department for a very long time. From way back then, the DOE well knew that loss of habitat caused by human activity and development was a real, continual, and existential threat to Booby’s. But the DOE undertook no meaningful actions to stem the loss. Now, at the 13th hour the “scientists” come charging in to save the day. Why did the DOE not take decisive action many years ago when it was obvious that the Booby was threatened? True to your government pedigree, you waited until things got to extreme crisis proportions to take swift action. Needless to say, we are not impressed.

    I can recall:
    –Formation of the Marine Conservation Board, which had quite good representation for the Sister Islands.
    (And the Brac Booby population continued to be threatened by unchecked development, the beach ridge continued to be leveled and forests continued to be bulldozed down.)

    –Action taken to protect the The Booby Pond Nature Reserve and Rookery to preserve the Red Footed Booby
    (And the Brac Booby population continued to be threatened by unchecked development, the beach ridge continued to be leveled and forests continued to be bulldozed down.)

    –Appointment of citizen Conservation Officers.
    (And the Brac Booby population continued to be threatened by unchecked development, the beach ridge continued to be leveled and forests continued to be bulldozed down.)

    –Enactment of speargun licensing regulations.
    (And the Brac Booby population continued to be threatened by unchecked development, the beach ridge continued to be leveled and forests continued to be bulldozed down.)

    –I vividly recall Mr. Benson’s daughter Gina (not very long out of college with a degree in biology as I recall. Now DOE director) and the environmental entourage coming to Cayman Brac for a very…ahh…let’s say, “memorable” meeting about limits on grouper take, held at the Aston Rutty Centre.
    (And the Brac Booby population continued to be threatened by unchecked development, the beach ridge continued to be leveled and forests continued to be bulldozed down.)

    –And I recall much ado about turtles and conch and lobster and the formation of protection, take regulation, season restriction on grouper, and the establishment of marine parks and replenishment zones.
    (And the Brac Booby population continued to be threatened by unchecked development, the beach ridge continued to be leveled and forests continued to be bulldozed down.)

    But, I do not recall a faint peep from the DOE back then about the destruction of the Brac beach ridge and foreshore land, decimation of forests, nor did I hear a peep about the threat to the Brac Booby Bird population from
    intrusion into their nesting grounds. But you guys sure yelped loud and long about turtles. Still do. You “scientists” are damn near heroes about protecting turtles, gotta give you that. And now probably pretty great at killing cats, too. Not so impressive otherwise.
    If the Booby bird population on Cayman Brac continues to dwindle to unsustainable levels, we have you and government to blame for remaining impotent until the last seconds of the last minute of the last hour before
    midnight and then doing too little, too late.

    (And the Brac Booby population continues to be threatened by unchecked development, unauthorised and destructive clearing of land continues to go unchallenged, the beach ridge continues to be leveled and forests continue to be bulldozed down.)
    <<<In case you did not notice, that is a hint.

    PS: What happened to the new dump we were promised? The current one is an eyesore and an environmental disaster. Yeah, I know that dumps are now DEH not DOE but the dump is a major environmental issue as well. Just asking for a friend.)
    Oh, my…almost forgot: with the expansion of the dump, government destroyed what I believe was the only inland red shrimp hole on Cayman Brac. PLUS, and this is a kicker: The red shrimp hole obviously had a direct and freely flowing connection with the sea and the water level in the closely surrounding wetland appeared to move with the tide. Meaning that toxic runoff from the dump has been flushing into the sea from that area this whole time. Additionally, the water table in the area of the dump is probably highly contaminated. This was also brought to the attention of government before the dump expanded to that area. Crickets has been done.
    When you are done killing cats, how about DOE putting some feet to the fire regarding the DEH's/solid waste environmental destruction so we can get a proper dump?

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  3. Truth says:

    Get rid of the feral cats and the feral people will just kick more cats to the curb and repopulate the feral cats again. And again. and again. See the real problem yet?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Why don’t they or Dept of Argic. do something about all these chickens running around public places causing annoyances and pooping all over the place? Catch them and set up a chicken farm of some sort.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    The problem with the DOE (and every Govt department) is an inability to carry out programs to completion. We get lots of roll outs and promises. And then it all fizzles out.

    This is a territory where it is impossible to mow the roadsides according to a regular schedule.

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    • Anonymous says:

      I think the Green Iguanas would disagree

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      • Anonymous says:

        Excellent example. A dent was made, but only a handful of cullers are now operating and the greens are still here and breeding. The population will inevitably explode again.

        Of course, millions of dollars were successfully eradicated from the EPF which may have been the real goal.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Feral cats are a problem, this was never in dispute.

    Are they the primary problem though?

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    • Anon says:

      The letter states that they have used many monitoring techniques to find out the source of the problem. While the cats might not be the only threat, they are indeed the primary problem based on their evidence based research.
      Read the letter, but they are 100% the primary problem.

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      • Anonymous says:

        @12:27:
        Try actually reading the Viewpoint next time, before going off and showing how poorly informed you are:

        The Viewpoint plainly states the cat problem: “…is contributing to their demise…” Nowhere do they state, or even imply, that cats are the “primary problem”. They know better. We who are informed and have been witness to the decline over the past decades know better.

        Long before the feral cat population became an issue, the Booby population had declined most alarmingly and loss of nesting habitat was already getting extreme. What do you think was the cause of the decline then?
        Your answer is?

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        • Anonymous says:

          I still believe the Cayman Islands would be a better place without any cats killing the wildlife!

    • Anonymous says:

      Feral people are a much bigger problem methinks.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    Why does Man always think he can outsmart Nature?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Cats aren’t a part of nature. They were put into nature by humans, so it’s up to humans to remove them now and fix their mistake.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Ok Then! Dumb and dumber!

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      • Anonymous says:

        @4:03:
        On Cayman Brac, humans are not part of “nature” there either, but a quite fairly recently introduced species that have wrought havoc on the natural environment. What shall we do to “fix” that?

    • Anonymous says:

      Because men aren’t as smart as they think they are. If you don’t believe it just look at all the government’s stupid activities for the last 20 years……. and it doesn’t appear to be getting any better! It is my belief that stupidity and greed have taken over this country, and others including the slipshod US of A!!!

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  8. Anonymous says:

    Why does Government always wait till it’s too late? This could have been prevented years ago with education,mandatory spay/neutering.We can’t even enforce our animals laws. We have horrible back yard breeders, dog fighting,cock fighting,breeders cropping ears and tails, animals tied up in yards with no water, cows,goats,birds and horses neglected and nothing is ever done to improve this.
    Our animal welfare officers are useless and most of DOE are too busy running their own businesses on the side to enforce the marine laws. Whatever habitat that is left for any wildlife will be gone from overdevelopment!
    Without the hard work of charities like Feline Friends,Humane Society,Care and others that support these cat’s the situation would be a 100 times worse. People have been spaying and neutering feral cats for years. They live a lot longer then Mr Burton suggested and have become a part of people’s family. I know older caymanian people that love their outside cats. With out their daily routine of feeding them they would have nothing. Now we are meant to suddenly stop feeding them and controlling the population? Makes absolutely no sense. I am an animal lover of all kinds including wildlife and yes I do agree that they should be protected. Just stopping spaying and neutering and feeding is ridiculous and I guarantee is not going to work. No one is going to let these cats starve to death. It’s either cull them all or keep the population under control but hey that would be way to sensible for government and way to much work for DOE.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Feline friends and the Humane Society have literally been blocking the DOE in court moving forward with the cull. They aren’t the beautiful little angels you seem to think they are. They do great work getting pets adopted but need to stay in their lane when it comes to protecting wildlife.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Without Feline Friends and their TNR program, believe me Cayman would have had a lot more cats!

        Do the research. TNR programs work to reduce the cat population, but it must be properly funded.

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        • Anonymous says:

          There you have it! TNR just wants you money to keep themselves in business. Every one of those cats dies an inhumane death, in the bush or as roadkill.

          And BTW – feeding bush casts also feeds the rats.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Feral wild cats are not pets and it is well known that feral felines are driving the country’s native species to extinction. If they can’t be housed or adopted they need to be exterminated.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    Honestly this whole environment and endangered program needs to overhauled. In one breath the politicians are passing laws to protect and encourage the regrowth of the various species and in another breath, they are passing laws to destroy trees and mangroves for new roads and housing developments. From what I have seen in the last 60:years, there are no balance between preservation, destruction and extinction.

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  11. Anonymous says:

    It’s way too late. The government doesn’t even enforce their own animal laws! This could have been prevented years ago with education and mandatory spay/neuter.Meanwhile we have back yard breeders, dog fighting,cock fighting, breeders cropping their own pups ears and tails and all forms of animal abuse every day.
    Half of DOE are busy running their own businesses on the side and Agriculture welfare officers are useless!
    Without the charity’s and people taking it upon themselves to have these cats fixed and feed them, this situation would be so much worse.Some people have been feeding this cats for years they live longer than what Mr Burton claims. They are basically a family pet now.
    The law says it will be done humanely yet they can use poison and have literally told the public if they want to get rid of an alien species by law they can kill it themselves.

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  12. Anonymous says:

    You maybe scientists, but your enforcement unit are boobys.

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    • Anonymous says:

      And our esteemed Ministers reject logic and science. They believe in riding donkeys in a full moon – can’t make this sh.t up.

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  13. Anonymous says:

    They have a name for people who dont believe in science stupid. Its not just a Cayman problem. They even have their own political party in the US Republicans.

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    • Anonymous says:

      OK, I’m American… This is so embarrassingly true. Cayman, Please, please don’t reject factual science. Strive to correct faults, preserve assets, and reject economic efforts to destroy your land; it is a treasure!

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  14. Anonymous says:

    I hear ya

    There’s another invasive species taking over a local species.

    The species under threat? Caymanians…

    Any protection for them or, na, not worth it?

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  15. Anonymous says:

    Brown boobies are common and live world wide. Why isn’t any necessary cat culling taking place where the endangered Cayman rock iguanas live? Science?

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  16. Anonymous says:

    Shame it took this long. Get going on all three islands.

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  17. Anonymous says:

    Well said DOE. Keep fighting the good fight!

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  18. Anonymous says:

    Dear DOE: When are you going to ask for an end to rock climbing on the Brac, as eggs get crushed? When are you going to fine people for collecting booby eggs and eating them? When are you going to fight for no more development in booby nesting areas?

    I don’t accept that it’s OK to inhumanely kill with poison any creature just because of a so-called “educated decision.”

    It’s just not, well, in my nature.

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    • Anonymous says:

      The major issue is the cats. When are you going to see what is so plainly obvious?! You live there and you been fighting this fight and misinforming the public the whole way because you like cats. Well I like boobies. If we cull the cats there will still be cats. If we don’t there won’t be any boobies. Simple inevitability demands a simply executed simple plan, plain and simple.

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      • Anonymous says:

        None as blind as those who will not see. The main problem is over development and poor management of the cats over the years. the cats will pay the price, unfortunately.

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        • Anonymous says:

          If development stopped dead today that would do nothing to prevent more loss of boobies due to cats.

          Two things can both be true. The answer is not to do nothing.

      • Anonymous says:

        @1:37:
        If cats are the main problem, how do you explain that the most precipitous decline in the Booby population took place well before feral cats were an issue.

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    • Anon says:

      Where on earth have they ever said they are going to kill with poison?
      Also, the letter clearly states that they have used many sources to ascertain what the biggest threat is.
      DOE is definitely fighting overdevelopment, but that is a losing battle.
      Who is eating booby eggs? What evidence do you have that rock climbing is contributing? If it is, I am sure that DOE will have discussions with those relevant groups about ways to mitigate risks.
      Honestly, I have no idea why everyone wants to protect cats, but yet there is a huge amount of feral cats across all islands. Maybe if you cared so much about the cats we wouldn’t have the feral cat problem, because they would have been spayed and neutered and cared for appropriately. Instead they have been left to their own devices and now threaten a Caymanian species.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Wild cats have been being poisoned on the Brac for easily the last 50 years. Not by the DOE mind you.

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  19. PhenomAnon says:

    @The Cayman Islands Department of Environment – Well said!
    @catlovers – Either sail over to the Brac and gather up all the feral cats that you can catch, then take them to your homes and care for them yourselves, or chill.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Come over here yourself. Good luck finding one cat a day. Well, unless you hunt around people’s homes.

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      • Anonymous says:

        I visit the brac regularly and ride my bike on just about every road, including all those empty roads to nowhere. And guess what? Emaciated feral cats are EVERYWHERE in the early morning hours.

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