The government of Puerto Rico has recently announced plans for a large-scale cull of the invasive green iguanas that are over-running the island:
Iguanas of Puerto Rico: Your days are numbered.
The island’s government is announcing plans to kill as many of the reptiles as possible and export their meat in hopes of eradicating an imported species that has long vexed residents and entertained tourists.
The U.S. Caribbean territory has roughly 4 million iguanas, which is a little more than the island’s human population, according to Daniel Galan Kercado, secretary of the Department of Natural Resources.
“This is a very big problem. We have to attack it,” he said in an interview Friday. “It has impacted structures, the economy, crops and the ecosystem.”
Puerto Rico has long struggled to eradicate the bright green reptiles that can grow up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) long and have a life span of some 20 years. Iguanas are considered an endangered species throughout most of Latin America, but Puerto Rico is overrun with them, in part because they breed so quickly and have few natural predators.
The reptiles were first seen in the wild in Puerto Rico in the 1970s when owners began to release them, and their numbers have since exploded. They have been blamed for taking over airport runways, burrowing under buildings and destroying foundations, and causing blackouts by building nests near the warmth of electric plants.
There’s more in the original article from the Washington Post.
The invasion has started.
Residents of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman are reporting sightings of green iguanas in the Islands.
The iguanas have been an increasingly common presence in Grand Cayman during the last decade, but until recent years, it appeared they had not made the crossing to the Sister Islands.
Department of Environment staff have been called out to deal with a small handful of cases on both Islands, but warn that a close eye has to be kept on the number of green iguanas showing up there or the population could get out of control, like it has in Grand Cayman.
“We have had reports of green iguanas from the Brac and Little Cayman – several in recent years,” said the Department of Environment’s Mat Cottam.
He said it was likely some green may have “hitched rides” in shipping containers and that in the past people had brought green iguanas on the Islands as pets. “We hope that people will know better these days,” he said.
“Green iguanas have potential to be invasive in the Brac and Little Cayman just as they are in Grand Cayman, so we take these reports very seriously. DoE conservation officers have responded to all reports from both Islands and, to the best of my knowledge, all have been successfully dispatched to date,” he said.
He said DoE staff had dealt with two or three on Little Cayman and one or two on the Brac.
Mr. Cottam said invasive species require immediate response for efficient control, because once established, eradication is usually effectively impossible.
The Department of Environment does not respond to calls regarding green iguanas on Grand Cayman, but it is trying to prevent the reptiles from becoming established on the Sister Islands.
“If members of the public cannot catch and dispatch the animals themselves, we encourage them to contact local DoE Conservation Officers immediately: In Little Cayman, Keith Neale, in the Brac Erbin Tibbetts and Robert Walton,” he said.
A survey of iguanas, funded by the Department of Environment, the National Trust and the Reptile Conservation Foundation, is under way on Cayman Brac with volunteers tracking and tagging rock iguanas.
Bonnie Edwards, liaison on the iguana survey, said the project also involved finding out how many green iguanas were on the Island and she urged anyone who spots a green iguana to call the “iguana hotline” on 917-7744.
“We’ve already had some calls, about two, about green iguanas. When we get them, we give those reports to the Department of Environment enforcement officers,” she said.
“They have to cull them. We love all iguanas, but the green ones don’t belong here and they are a threat to the native rock iguana,” she said.
Previously on Green Antilles: Reptiles invade the Turks and Caicos Islands and Video: Green iguanas are a pest in the Cayman Islands.
[Photo: Josh Bozarth]