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Green iguana, Puerto RicoThe 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.

Green iguanas are also a growing problem in the Cayman Islands:

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]

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5 Responses to “Puerto Rico, Cayman Islands to cull populations of invasive green iguanas” Subscribe

  1. roger allewaert February 6, 2012 at 2:59 pm #


    This reptilian meat will have to be thourougly inspected by
    experienced veterinarians, to exclude all transmission of
    infective vectors.
    Are these wild species really soo harmfull for nature ?

    Of course, make sure the cannot sunbathe on the runways of the airport, just make a dog chase them once in a while, but for the rest, they are a beauiful tourist attraction.

    Are you going to execute them because the occassionnally
    poop in your swimming pool? Come’on.

    • Thérèse February 6, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

      4 million green iguanas in Puerto Rico is more than a problem of occasional poop in a swimming pool. And in the Cayman Islands and other territories of the Lesser Antilles, green iguanas have been displacing and reducing endangered native iguana populations. In these islands they are a harmful invasive species, and population reduction has been deemed necessary. The articles linked to in this post provide a good idea of the scale and nature of the problem, and why it needs to be controlled.

  2. roger allewaert February 6, 2012 at 10:20 pm #

    Good night,

    Harmfull, displacing the indiginous species,
    but there are also lots of hybrids , no ?
    What are you going to to with these “mulat” iguanas?
    They carry half of the good genes of the delicatissima!

    I think nature preservation has better things to do than
    killing thousands of ”no good” iguanas.
    I also do not believe that the public eye will accept this,
    without a protest.
    Here on Sint-Maarten, since 1995, we see a steady increase
    in populations, but they are mostly sunbathing in the mangroves and palmtrees, and true they occasionnally ruin a papaya tree, or a noni, or a passion fruit tree, but they mostly feed on young sprouts from indigenous plants, so no
    real harm done.They are a succesfull species from ancient times, and we should respect them as such, and not put them through meat mills, as humans since prehistoric times are used to put all wildlife thru these mills for protein.
    Antilleans on the ABC islands almost killed off all iguanas,
    before they got protected, because of their belief that iguana soup increases potency…
    Killing all green reptiles like this, even if they have minor genetic differences from the original species, is not an act of nature protection, since they are harmless. An iguana has nothing to do with a lionfish. I really want to read your articles that prove they are really harmfull.Thanks for your info, Roger

    • Thérèse February 7, 2012 at 5:41 am #

      The articles that I mentioned are not my articles, but they are clearly linked in the post, so you can have a look at them. Thanks very much for commenting and sharing your views.

  3. MIGUEL FLORES February 13, 2014 at 9:16 pm #

    The way I see it, these creatures can be controlled by using their habit of gulping down food against them. But there would be a need to select a method that would that ensure other animals like birds, would not die in the same manner. Some careful study would be needed to maximize my theory’s effectiveness as a plan. It helps that these iguanas greatly prefer fruits and vegetables; they quickly gulp them down. A workable plan could include using the metal pieces of a jacks game ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacks_%28game%29 ) and simple pieces of fruit like pitted olives. One would simply take the pointed end of a metal jack and push it into the hole of an olive, pushing it deep enough to take hold (perhaps tying a tiny piece of string to hold it in place).

    Next, take many of these baits and drop them in an iguana infested location. This should especially work on the mid-size iguanas; they should gobble up the bait olive, jacks and all. The powerful stomach acid of these lizards should be no match for metal jacks; they should die in a few days. I am thinking the shape of the jacks should get stuck in the guts of the mid-size iguanas most effectively. In this manner it may be most effective to control their population in the wild. A big jar of olives and jacks could slay an army of iguanas.

    Thank you in advance for reading my comments, I hope this helps!


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