Cayman’s native iguanas are small in number, and under many threats, so it’s no wonder that people are surprised to see the reptiles advertised for sale online.
But as Cayman 27’s Philipp Richter tells us, what is being advertised are likely not purebreds and it’s important not to bring them here. On a website based out of Florida, Cayman Brac rock iguanas and a hybrid version of the Grand Cayman blue iguana are for sale.
“Remember that before anybody thinks about problems like native animals leaving the country, I mean years and years ago before people worried about it is when this probably happened,” said Paul Watler from the National Trust.
Environmental Programmes Manager from the National Trust, Paul Watler says that decades ago, People would have these iguanas as pets and those from abroad would purchase them.
“There were people from other countries who were interested in having these animals because in other countries these would be exotic reptiles pets,” said Paul Watler from the National Trust.
He believes this is how our native iguanas ended up abroad in the first place.
“Once your breeding them in another country, there is no law that strictly speaking says anybody in a country has to return animals that were originally from, for example, Grand Cayman or from Cayman Brac and Little Cayman,” said Paul Watler, Environmental Programmes Manager for the National Trust.
Leaving no legal way to bring the reptiles back, but that is not necessarily a bad thing as breeders will create hybrid versions of our native iguanas, like the Grand Cayman Blue Iguana.
“So you would in essence pollute the gene pool and that wouldn’t be a natural occurrence for these animals to have hybrids like that,” said Paul Watler, Environmental Programmes Manager for the National Trust.
Fred Burton from the Department of Environment in a statement says “However, looking at the way these are being described it appears that they are actually hybrids, not pure Grand Cayman or Cayman Brac iguanas. There a lot of those in the US in private hands, unfortunately, and it’s very important they don’t find their way to Cayman ever, since they would potentially undermine conservation work here through hybridization in the wild”
The Cayman Islands has legislation in pace to protect endangered species from trade and transport since the first of July 20-15. For more information about this law.