GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands: Six endangered blue iguanas were killed and two others injured at the weekend by one or more persons, who broke into the iguana habitat at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park in Grand Cayman.
Samantha Hicks, one of the distraught volunteers at the Blue Iguana Recovery Program (BIRP), spoke about the incident. “We’ve never seen anything like this before, it was a sustained and brutal attack,” she said, adding: “We are heartbroken and devastated; just absolutely furious.”
The six iguanas killed ranged from 18 to 23 years old and were among the friendliest iguanas at the facility, making them easy targets, Hicks said, but added that they would not have gone down without a fight.
“The big ones would have fought back with every ounce invested in them; the people who did this are more than likely covered with very deep scratches,” she said.
Hicks, who assists BIRP Director Fred Burton on a volunteer basis, said that police have launched a forensic investigation into the slaughter, recovering evidence that might lead them to the perpetrators.
“There was a cigarette butt on site and they have taken that away. There was also a dribble of blood on the wall of one of the pens that was more likely to be human than iguana.”
According to a BIRP press release, the iguana known as Sara, considered the “grand matriarch” of the facility, was one of the animals killed. “‘Jessica had been thrown out of the neighbouring pen and was in shock but still moving. Both females had been preparing to lay eggs,” the statement said. Jessica later died.
The release continued: “The iguanas appeared to have massive internal injuries, as if they had been stamped on violently and repeatedly. Some were also cut and partially dismembered.”
The hind leg of one of the iguanas had apparently been ripped or cut off and the body of the sixth iguana had not been found but entrails were discovered outside of his pen and it is assumed he has died as a result of his injuries.
Dr Colin Wakelin, Veterinary Officer at the Department of Agriculture, worked into the night to save Jessica by providing intravenous fluids and seeking advice from international specialists over the phone but those efforts failed and she died later that evening.
Wakelin also closed a large gash in the shoulder of one of the iguanas that Hicks believes was caused by a knife.
Chief Inspector Richard Barrow said in a Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) press release: “This is a despicable act that was carried out by cowardly and cruel individuals. The community, as are the RCIPS, is truly sickened by this incident and we will not stop until we find who is responsible for this senseless act.”
The blue iguana is the most critically endangered species of iguana in the world; the recovery programme has about 150 animals in the facility, of which about 30 are fully grown.
The Blue Iguana Recovery Program is urging people to visit http://www.blueiguana.ky and make a donation to help assist with the added costs of the tragedy.