Surrounded by the picturesque Caribbean Sea, Grand Cayman Island offers great opportunities to observe sea life like octopus, sponges, eels and beautiful coral reefs. But the delightful fauna of the island doesn’t stop at the shoreline.
As a popular migratory stopover for non-water birds, Grand Cayman hosts many non-indigenous species during the winter. Among the bird species endemic to the island are the Caribbean dove, the West Indian woodpecker and the Grand Cayman parrot. A subspecies of the Cuban Amazon parrot that likely arrived when sea levels were lower and the trip between the islands easier, the Grand Cayman parrot is found only here. Its numbers are estimated to be less than 4,500, making its situation “dire.”
Snakes, Amphibians and Reptiles
All snakes on Grand Cayman are non-venomous, although some can be as long as five feet or use a threatening pose when startled. The Cayman Racer snake is named for its propensity to quickly slither away when approached.
The Greenhouse frog and the Cuban tree frog can be observed at the island’s Botanic Park in addition to their natural habitats around Grand Cayman. The Cuban tree frog, also called the bullfrog, is more common and found near fresh water sources.
Another popular resident of the Botanic Park is the Grand Cayman Blue Iguana, the island’s largest native land animal, reaching up to five feet and 25 pounds. From an estimate of just a dozen left in 2002, an intense recovery program has brought their numbers back over 700. Habitat destruction, road kills and hunting by non-native, invasive species have made this the most endangered iguana on the planet.
Although turtles used to be the majority residents on Grand Cayman, overfishing diminished their population drastically until a conservation effort replenished their numbers. A tortoise known as a hickatee lives among Grand Cayman’s fresh water ponds.
Bats and Others
Like snakes, the bats found on Grand Cayman are harmless to humans. The brown bat, a very rare species, is found nowhere else on earth but Grand Cayman.
Agoutis, shy rodents known locally as rabbits, were brought to the island for rat control. However, the two species operate at different times of day, ironically leaving the diurnal agoutis to hunt snakes, rats’ natural predator.
So, while enjoying the diving and snorkeling off Grand Cayman, don’t forget to visit the diverse and somewhat rare land animals the island has to offer.