Two American tourists have been arrested after photographs of people cooking
and eating endangered iguanas in the Exuma Cays were posted on a social networking website.
Friends of those responsible for posting
the pictures on Facebook circulated the photographs in an e-mail that worked its way to executive director of the Bahamas
National Trust (BNT) Eric Carey on MOnday afternoon.
Horrified by the gruesome images
of the critically endangered species being butchered, grilled and devoured, and a dinghy
filled with undersized juvenille conch which were then cut up and eaten, Mr Carey alerted staff at the BNT Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park.
The park warden and administrator worked with police in George Town and Black Point, Exuma, to track down the suspects.
Two people were arrested at around midday yesterday in the vicinity of Black Point or Staniel Cay in connection with the offence which breaks Fisheries Regulations
and the Wild Animal Protection Act, prohibiting the possession of dead or live iguanas.
Iguanas are also protected under the Convention on International Trade
in Endangered Species (CITES) and as the suspects in custody are understood to be US citizens, Mr Carey said they could also be charged under US law which makes it illegal to commit an offence in a country that has a relationship with the US.
Two others also feature in the photographs showing a group of people taunting, cooking
and eating iguanas, and taking juvenille conch.
Police investigations continue.
Mr Carey said: "We have had people poaching iguanas for the pet trade
but I have never seen this sort of barbaric butchery for consumption
"This is personally and professionally very disturbing to me. It's absolutely disgusting.
"It's totally disrespectful of our laws and of the laws of nature.
"To see guys gloating with such disrespect and putting the pictures on such a public profile as Facebook clearly shows they have no fear of prosecution and we need to prove them wrong.
"We take the responsibility to enforce wildlife law very seriously."
The West Indian iguanas are some of the most endangered lizards in the world and include the three species and seven sub-species native to the Bahamas
Iguanas are threatened by development wrecking their habitats and foreign animals
that eat small iguanas or iguana eggs.
Mr Carey said: "We have the greatest diversity of iguanas - some only exist on small isolated islands, and certainly they cannot take any sort of pressure from humans or they won't survive.
"They are really a very important part of our unique biodiversity and they are also an important tourist attraction."