Things That Matter

Florida Moves To Ban Iguanas (Among Other Animals) As They Start Showing Up In People’s Toilets

There’s never a dull moment in Florida. The state is well known for its fondness for all things exotic and/or strange, it has a long history of accommodating religious cults and now the ex-President Trump calls the state home. But now the state is trying to clamp down on another unwanted resident – invasive reptiles that are overrunning the state and literally showing up in people’s toilets.

Florida moves to ban iguanas as they become an invasive species in the state.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has ruled that within the next few weeks the breeding and dealing of 16 of the most ecologically-damaging non-native species must be brought to a halt. The ban will apply to several types of python that have proliferated to crisis point in the Everglades, as well as all types of tegu lizards, anacondas, Nile monitor lizards and green iguanas.

Green iguanas have multiplied in Florida to such a degree since they were first spotted there in 1960 that they are regarded as an environmental hazard. They puncture seawalls, tear up sidewalks and carry salmonella.

An animal once prized as an exotic curiosity is now widely decried as a pest. The iguanas hang out on roofs, dig under houses and to the horror of home owners can crawl into sewers only to emerge, thrashing around, in the toilet bowl.

The state conservation commission now encourages Floridians to humanely kill the lizards, which can grow up to 5ft and 17lbs, on their own property. No hunting licenses are required.

Iguanas are just one of many exotic animals that have become a problem for the state.

In an effort to protect local ecology, economy, and human health, the state is making it illegal for Floridians to breed or sell such animals as Burmese and scrub pythons, Green anacondas, Nile monitors, green iguanas, and tegus, among several other invasive species. Finalized on February 25, the new rules are meant to improve the regulations on the ownership of invasive reptiles in Florida, and they’re expected to go into effect later this summer. 

“Stringent biosecurity measures are required for those entities in possession of Prohibited species to limit escapes,” declares the Florida wildlife commission in its guidelines. 

These reptiles are becoming a major menace in the state, ravaging sensitive ecosystems and wreaking havoc in urban environments. The Burmese python, for example, is now endemic in the Everglades, where it consumes a wide variety of prey. 

But not everyone is onboard with the idea of banning the sale of these animals.

When the commission debated the rules last month it was inundated with comments, many from exotic pet owners and breeders pleading for the ban not to go ahead. As the Washington Post reported, one woman burst into tears over the idea of losing her pet iguanas and pythons.

“If you take them away, I would be really messed up,” she wailed.

But the spread of invasive species through sensitive ecosystems such as the Everglades is happening at such speed that the state felt duty bound to act. The reptiles are also causing havoc in urban areas.

To soften the blow to pet owners, a concession has been tucked into the new regulations. Anyone who cannot contemplate the thought of being parted from their iguana or tegu can apply for a free permit. But the reprieve will last only for the life of the animal. Once the critter is gone, it cannot be replaced by a new pet from the list of banned species.

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