The Biosecurity Authority of Fiji (BAF) together with Nature Fiji -Mareqeti Viti has put in place a bounty programme to eradicate the American Iguana, considered a pest by local authorities and a threat to local vegetation.

The bounty programme will reward locals for capturing this iguana species at a rate of $10 for adult iguana, five dollars for juvenile iguana and 50 cents for recovering eggs. The program will end in December this year.

BAF chief executive officer Waisiki Gonemaituba said the bounty program is part of an eradication program that includes various stakeholders.

“Since 2009- 2011 we have received reports from people in Qamea, Matagi and Taveuni that the iguana has been cited in these areas however we need to contain the numbers before they spread,” Mr Gonemaituba said.

“A six-member team is currently on the island of Qamea conducting surveys because between April to September is mating period for this species and a female iguana can lay 50-80 eggs at a time.”

In 2010, the American Iguana eradication campaign taskforce was set-up to eradicate this species and a number of community outreach programmes have been carried since to highlight to villagers, the harm it brings to the endemic iguanas and the tourism sector.

“A survey conducted in 2011 estimated 2000 American iguanas and 400 breeding adults in Qamea, Matagi, Laucala island and Taveuni and this number can increase exponentially,” Mr Gonemaituba said.

Meanwhile, Director for Nature Fiji – Mareqeti Viti, Nunia Thomas, highlighted that this pest is a threat to Fiji’s crested iguanas.

“We are conducting training with local people to be able to distinguish the features of the crested iguana and American iguana,” Ms Thomas said.

“American iguanas are mostly arboreal, well camouflaged and have excellent eyesight, and the ability to avoid detection high in the canopy,” Ms Thomas said.

Ms Thomas said part of the program will include training wildlife detector dogs and their handlers to sniff out American iguanas and their nests.