From the Cayman Compass, on the big island of money-laundering and tax evasion, come this story of alien invasion:
Contract hunters would need to cull nearly 200,000 green iguanas per year at an estimated cost of more than $1 million to make an impact on the exponentially increasing population of the invasive species.
A Department of Environment report on two test culls held earlier this year indicates that a sustained culling project would likely generate around 200 tons of iguana carcasses annually – equivalent in weight to about 80 adult elephants.
Fred Burton, who led the pilot project, said the test culls proved effective but chaotic. Overall he said the results of the pilot were “discouraging” and the scale and cost of the task was greater than originally hoped.
He highlighted a series of potential problems that the country faces in scaling up eradication efforts to the necessary level, including disposal of the carcasses.
“The scale of the green iguana control challenge exceeds DoE’s current capacity, and requires government to consider options to resource this major undertaking,” Mr. Burton wrote in his report.
“DoE estimates a cull of 177,500 adult and sub-adult iguanas per year will be necessary to initiate a decline in the green iguana population if we begin the operational cull in 2017. This implies an operation almost 10 times larger than the recent experimental culls.”
The report cites earlier surveys that indicate the green iguana population is doubling every 1.5 years “threatening a catastrophic impact on the natural environment and socially unacceptable problems for agriculture, infrastructure and residential areas.”
Against this backdrop, the Department of Environment organized two test culls in June this year. The first involved three teams of skilled hunters working to eradicate iguanas in three specific areas with high iguana population densities.
The second involved teams of licensed “bounty hunters” who were paid $5 a head for their catch. A total of nearly 19,000 iguanas were culled in the two week-long experiments.