Iguanas with crisps: Florida seeks solution to invasive reptile problem | Florida
From the summer of Key West Hemingway Days, in which bearded hopefuls compete for the title of best daddy lookalike, at the annual hunt for the elusive (and imaginary) skunk monkey, Florida is renowned for its calendar of sights.
Now another weird date has been added to the list: tag your reptile day.
Owners of you Gus, a non-native species of giant lizard from Central and South America, and green iguanas, another prolific invader, must microchip their reptiles like any conventional pet.
Seek to comply with a regulation passed in February to protect against invasive species and which went into effect over the weekend, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) established beacon day, actually a series of dates in the coming weeks at locations across the state.
“Just like with cats and dogs, microchipping your green iguana or tegu is one of the easiest and most effective ways to protect them while also protecting native Florida wildlife,” said Kristen Sommers, Head of Wildlife Impact Management at FWC.
Microchip days, which are sure to raise eyebrows in veterinary practice waiting rooms, are part of a 90-day grace period. After that, tegus and green iguanas should be cleared and chipped.
A new three-month period will give homeowners time to comply with the new outdoor caging requirements, which also apply to 14 other non-native species covered by the new regulations, including Burmese and other species of pythons, green anacondas and Nile monitor lizards.
“These animals are creating huge problems for our state,” said FWC chairman Rodney Barreto of regulations aimed at reducing the release of harmful species into the wild.
“I have always been proud that Florida is seen as a leader. Let us take a bold stand. We have to put our foot on the ground. The time has come, and we hope other states will follow suit.
Florida has around 500 non-native species, many of which have caused extensive damage to a sensitive ecosystem. Among the worst offenders are the Burmese pythons, which plague the Everglades and other waterways, depleting stocks of deer, rodents and wading birds.
The Argentine black-and-white tegu, which can grow to the size of a dog, has become a problem, especially in the southern part of the state. Since 2012, at least 7,800 have been found dead or removed from the wild by FWC personnel or hunters.
Green iguanas can grow over 5 feet and weigh up to 17 pounds. According to the FWC, they cause damage by digging burrows that erode and collapse sidewalks, foundations, dikes, berms and canal banks.
The agency encourages the humane slaughter and disposal of both species in the wild.
Some who keep creatures as pets are not so welcoming of the new regulations.
“This is absolutely ridiculous,” said owner Marie Lewis of the Hernando reptile and exotic rescue The Facebook page. “We are all punished for stupid guards. I understand the possibility of invasive species, but some of us genuinely care about our reptiles. “