A group of racing enthusiasts this week launched an iguana-and-land-crab racing league to help bolster their incomes. (photo courtesy of Kitty Terwolbeck)
In an effort to boost income while tourism is shut down due to COVID border closures, Blacktip Island sporting enthusiasts this week launched an iguana-and-land-crab racing league they hope to market to subscribers worldwide.
“It has everything: it’s a competition, it’s unique and people love a good race,” Rocky Shore said. “Clete Horn’s the one who came up with the idea of having those little, red, baby land crabs ride as jockeys on some of our island iguanas. It’s the novelty of the thing that’ll get folks to subscribe.
“The trick is to piss off the little crabs so they’ll clamp their claws down on an iguana’s back spike,” Shore said. “It’s a tricky balance—you don’t get the crab mad enough, it’ll let go mid-race and you’re disqualified; get it too pissed, it’ll turn on you and give you a nasty pinch.”
Animal rights activists say the races are blatant animal abuse.
“This is not some new sport. It’s textbook animal cruelty,” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals president Harry Pickett said. “They abuse the crabs to get them to clutch the iguanas, then they abuse the iguanas by sticking the crabs on them. Neither crabs nor iguanas asked for this, and all would run away from it if they could.
“There’s no upside,” Pickett said. “There’s no mitigating factors. Quite the opposite. This is a horrific act, all for money and twisted entertainment. At the animals’ expense.”
Some on the small tropical island disagreed.
“Harry and his gang need to lighten up,” Goldie Goby said. “It’s just good fun, and the crabs and iguanas seem to enjoy it. They’re fine afterwards, and there’s no shortage of either on the island.
“You should see those iguanas tearing down the track, with little red crabs hanging on for dear life,” Goby said. “‘Tonio Fletcher’s got a couple of bad-ass iguanas that are beating all comers. No telling what he’s feeding them but they go like scalded . . . well, scalded iguanas.”
Organizers say proceeds have been minimal thus far.
“We’ve put a few races on YouTube to attract attention, build the interest, but we haven’t sold any subscriptions just yet,” Clete Horn said. “But all it takes is that one person seeing it and passing on the word, and we’ll be golden. We’ve got a long way to go, but we’re nearly there.”
Island authorities have warned locals against betting on the races.
“As fun as these races are, gambling is still illegal,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “I’ve posted notices, and talked to all the parties involved, warning I will arrest anyone caught placing wagers. I gave ‘Tonio a second, sterner talking-to yesterday when he brought me my winnings.”