Do we care enough?

| 27/04/2010

When in May 2008 sevenBlue Iguanas in the captive breeding programme were brutally killed, it was prime fodder for the local headlines and even the international media picked up the story. The response was collective outrage and the laments were loud and heartfelt. If only the good news about the Blues’ recovery garnered similar passions.

This is the basic problem: shocking tales of savagery and slaughter are easy for readers to digest, whereas the good news – hard won results of the daily grind of scientists and volunteers, a bumper batch of eggs, successful releases into the wild – has a tough time competing for the public’s attention against the latest crime or news that affects money in their pockets.

But the hard truth is, unless the human population of Grand Cayman collectively decides to get up and leave and take all the dogs, cats, rats, cattle and Green Iguanas with them, life for the island’s native reptile will always be precarious and support for the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme, both locally and abroad, continues to be vital to its success. It needs money, more land and the political will to protect and build on its achievements so far.

So for BIRP’s director, Fred Burton, as well as tackling the mammoth task of saving the magnificent Blues from extinction, there is also the problem of how to make people care enough to enable him and his network of support to achieve this. The Cayman media, to be fair, has been supportive, and so have local organizations, schools and businesses, but the fact that the conservation bill looks set to gather dust through yet another administration is a sad indication that environmental issues are not still uppermost in voters’ minds and therefore not a priority for politicians.

One way that all of us can help is to ensure that as many people as possible read Fred’s new book, The Little Blue Book – a short history of the Grand Cayman Blue Iguana. Buy it, read it, tell your friends about it, donate a copy to your kids’ school library, ask your MLA if they have read it, and if not, why not. The whole thing is less than 100 pages, and that includes a large number of gorgeously colourful pictures of this incredibly photogenic reptile, and lays out plainly the imperative of supporting the programme.

Fred the scientist has kept technicalities to a minimum, so children and even science clods like me can easily absorb its content. Fred the author, meanwhile, has produced a truly compelling and elegantly written little book, packed with fascinating characters, both reptilian and human, and a gripping narrative in which he weaves the short history of the species with surprisingly poetic field notes, along with strategically placed chapters on the life and times of the Blues. Also notable but not always acknowledged is the grindingly hard work done by scientists and volunteers, in the field tracking the iguanas or doing the very manual labour of building cages.

Chapters 2 and 3 reminds us of how much has been lost already since mankind first discovered the Cayman Islands – the merest blink of an eye in the islands’ history – listing the species that have already disappeared and explaining in stark terms how close we came to losing the Blue Iguana forever. As pointed out in the book’s conclusion, indifference could still send these creatures into extinction, though it’s hard to imagine anyone reaching the final sentence of The Little Blue Book and still not understanding why we should care.

The Dodo has become the poster child for human stupidity and it’s unthinkable, but not impossible, that despite all the blood, sweat and tears that have already gone into saving them that Cayman’s Blue Iguana could go the same way. Years from now, there could be pictures in nature books of a beautiful bright blue iguana – a creature that could have survived but people just didn’t care enough.

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Category: Viewpoint

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Environmental concern seems to take a backseat to the development agenda of recent political regimes (presumably with some vested interest), and may not represent the prevailing Will of the voting public. 

    The perception is that there is nomeasured mechanism to call out the politicians and demand that they reallign their interests with their moral obligation to the electorate and future generations of these islands.  

    If there was an established impeachment apparatus (ie. consequences), whole parties could find themselves up for expulsion.  For now, Caymanians silently abide, and the public must save what they can through their own private efforts.      

    CNS: Let’s see. I’ve posted a new poll: Are you in favour of a conservation law?

  2. Fred Burton says:

    There’s a list of places selling my book at

    and I’ll keep it current as more places take it up.

    Thank you, Nicky, for your thought-provoking words!




  3. Just Sayin says:

    Nice try Nicky, but sadly the lack of comment is likely little more than an indictment on the generalintellect of a majority of your posters

  4. Anonymous says:

    Did they ever charge anyone for the crime? XXXXXX

    • Well says:

      It depends upon whether you believe it was a dog or the miscreant son of a leading local family. . .

  5. Asbestos Man says:

    Our conservation efforts are massively offset by the mistreatment of dolphins for profit permitted in this territory.

  6. Joe Average says:

    I think we do care Nicky, but sometimes the overabundance of calamities makes us choose which ones will draw our attention.  Our attention is also up for sale and used for improving ratings, and increasing revenues.  A lead such as HUNDREDS DIE!!!! will attract our attention whereas SOMEONE HELPED SOMEONE TODAY…. won’t.

    So it is partly a matter of morbid curiosity as much as it is of becoming immune.  But that is hardly an excuse.

    We also tend to hope someone else is stepping in, some organization, some group, not necessarily us but someone else "with more time".  Sound like a cop-out?  It is but it still doesn’t mean we don’t care.  In many cases, at least in part, we rely on governments to step in.  But after awhile we learned the lesson that governments move too slowly and when they did eventually decide to do something it was out of political expediency, not of out of necessity. That is why volunteers and organizations (and ourselves) outside of government are so important.  We can’t waitfor them to study a problem to death as they are doing with climate change or even here in our own little piece of paradise.

    For instance:  How much higher does our mountain of trash have to be before we adopt a National Recycling Program? Or anyone in government notices?  So if we want a Conservation Program, we’re going to have to start it.

    It still doesn’t mean we don’t care if it hasn’t been enacted, we just have to accept reality.  And the reality is it’s up to us to protect our environment, our fellow creatures, and each other.  Ergo… that is why I have always supported NGO’s such as GreenPeace, SeaSheperd Society, Amnesty International, Medecins Sans Frontieres, and an organization I posted on recently KIVA.  Those are the people who get things done in the same way The Blue Iguana Recovery Program is doing locally.  My hat is off to them.

    Who wants to read 

                               BLUE IGUANAS NEAR EXTINCTION!!!!!

    Did that get anyone’s attention?  Ultimately if we do care…..and we do….let’s prove it.  Although you didn’t give an address for B.I.R.P. it sounds like buying the book will help to prove we care.

  7. Anonymous says:

    There really doesn’t seem to be much care or concern for the environment in the Cayman Islands. Gina and the rest of the people at the DoE are the obvious exception to this bleak situation.

    There are so many examples of the people not really caring for animals, be they the blue iguanas or the dolphins.

    Look at the landfill and the lack of political will to pass a conservation law.

    What ever happened with the blue iguana slaughter? Word was passed around that it was a pack of dogs which is mendacity in my opinion.

    I believe it is another example of the lack of animal cruelty laws and enforcement.

    • Anonymous says:

      OK, I’m a Caymanian and I’m now going to make a comment that, if printed, will get huge thumbs downs. Most – I didn’t say all – conservation, litter awareness/pickup and concern for animals and the cruelty inflicted on them is the work of expats and non born Caymanians.


      CNS: Sorry, yes I had to delete the 2nd paragraph.

      • Human says:

        Racist!  The Blues are the only true Caymanians.

        Good editing,CNS!

        • welda says:

          What about the Greens with the black bands on their tales. Are they expats… well, many of them are born here now so they must have status eligibility until the age of 18 months or whatever… 

          Ummm… I am proposing ethnic cleansing. They make good food and they becoming a nuisance to landowners

          • Human says:

            All iguanas should be entitled to basic "iguana rights" under the law, irrespective of colour, race of nationality. 

            Instead of an ethnic cleansing let’s follow Bermuda, round them up and deport them.  I’m thinking Canada.  Those Canadians welcome everyone.

            Or I guess we could eat them… as long as we treat them fairly between bites.

      • Alan Nivia says:

        I am going to give the second paragraph a thumbs down anyway, because it must have been cracking given the content of the first paragraph!

  8. Roger Corbin says:

    The Conservation Law which has been overlooked for so long would address many of the issues in Viewpoint. The longer it’s introduction is delayed the more complicated will become. Please, will the voters ask their elected representatives to ensure that the Conservation Law is passed without further delay.


    Roger Corbin, Chairman, National Trust for the Cayman Islands

    • Animaliberator says:

      Talk about conservation laws indeed Roger, why is this taking so long.

      I just witnessed a few days ago, the total removal of one of the most beautiful Black Olive trees I have ever seen, about 60 feet tall and must have been at least 40-50 years old, I witnessed at least 26 years of that lifespan.

      Why? Here goes another carbon converter never to return and that was the second fully mature tree to leave our park. If I would do such an act in my native country without permission, I would be in jail the same day.

      If we don’t get a grip on these activities very soon besides all the other issues pertaining to conservation, one would need one gigantic imagination as to what once was that is no longer there. All we would see is indeed one mountain of garbage, growing by the minute.

      • Anonymous says:

        Sad to say, but we are fast becoming another Haiti as far as our natural vegetation goes.

        Of course it is all in the name of development, but may I ask the question?

        Do anyone really care?

  9. Animaliberator says:

    Good article Nicky but let’s look inside ourselves and see what is really going on here.

    Besides those who are protecting the Blues, Fred first and foremost, but also all the benefactors to the program who invest money and labour, if the general populus would care a little too, the 7 Blues would likely not be dead today, our local also PROTECTED parrot would not be shot every day, our pet dogs would not be frequently poisoned by the herbicide paraquat,  we probably would not have 2 dolphin parks today, turtle poaching etc. etc., if we only cared a little.

    We all know we have some priorities here now because of the sluggish economy but is or should not be a reason why this is allowed to happen. Law enforcement with all the protective laws in place is not interested enough to stop these types of crime as they are ONLY animals, or so it seems anyway looking at the results of solving these matters.

    Fred’s new book is very good and indeed also hope many people will read it and pass on the knowledge why it is so very important protecting the Blues but also all the other animals and hope it will raise awareness and an elevation of peoples moral values in general that animals deserve a fair shake at life as well.

    Most, if not all animals are here to serve and please us in some form or another. What are we doing to serve and please them so we can all enjoy life with a bit of peace and dignity?

    In answer to your question: Do we care enough? Apparently not but hope that one day this will change before it’s too late to care as by that time, it will be too late for all of us.