Florida Senator introduces bill to prohibit possession or sale of Green Iguanas and Black and White Tegus

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Florida Senator introduces bill to prohibit possession or sale of Green Iguanas and Black and White Tegus

On February 20, 2019 Democratic Senator Gary Farmer of Florida introduced Senate Bill 1236 that among other things prohibits “An act relating to transactions for the possession of animals; amending s. 379.372, F.S.; making technical changes; prohibiting a person, a party, a firm, an association, or a corporation from keeping, possessing, importing, selling, bartering, trading, or breeding for personal use or sale green iguanas or black and white tegus”. This Bill also deals with the possession and transportation of venomous reptiles as well as the leasing of pets but our focus in this article will be the two species Iguana iguana and Salvator merianae.

As both native Floridians and visitors to this great state are aware, the flora and fauna of Florida are unlike any other in the nation. This becomes vividly apparent in the canals and parks south of Lake Okeechobee as well as many gardens, back yards and even highway medians where it is not uncommon to see nonnative animals such as the Indian Mynah bird (Acridotheres tristis) or the South American Green Iguana (Iguana iguana) wandering about searching for food and unbeknownst to them, living their daily lives as invasive species. The waterways of South Florida are also infested with many aquatic grasses and fishes such as the Amazonian suckermouth catfish (Hypostomus Plecostomus) and the Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes). One University of Florida paper indicated that as much as 96% of Florida waterways have at least one or more established nonnative plants. This trend also is visible in the oceans surrounding South Florida where in recent years the Lionfish (Pterois volitans) has made its presence known by taking over local reefs and spreading around the state and up the Atlantic coast.

As both native Floridians and visitors to this great state are aware, the flora and fauna of Florida are unlike any other in the nation. This becomes vividly apparent in the canals and parks south of Lake Okeechobee as well as many gardens, back yards and even highway medians where it is not uncommon to see nonnative animals such as the Indian Mynah bird (Acridotheres tristis) or the South American Green Iguana (Iguana iguana) wandering about searching for food and unbeknownst to them, living their daily lives as invasive species. The waterways of South Florida are also infested with many aquatic grasses and fishes such as the Amazonian suckermouth catfish (Hypostomus Plecostomus) and the Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes). One University of Florida paper indicated that as much as 96% of Florida waterways have at least one or more established nonnative plants. This trend also is visible in the oceans surrounding South Florida where in recent years the Lionfish (Pterois volitans) has made its presence known by taking over local reefs and spreading around the state and up the Atlantic coast.

One common explanation for the abundance of established introduced species in the southern third of Florida is the mild climate where temperatures rarely drop below freezing and when they do there are many areas that can protect a tropical species from eradication. This allows an escaped or released nonnative organism to find safe haven as it sets about the common acts of daily survival including feeding and breeding to eventually become part of the local flora and fauna. Over the decades this has led to the establishment of a list of hundreds of bird, plant, mammal and reptile species in Florida. As a whole this large group of living beings causes millions of dollars in damages to the canals, waterways, agricultural areas and gardens as well as millions more spent in eradication efforts. But in other ways it makes this area unlike any other in the nation where a nature outing or diving trip can bring you face to face with animals you would not see unless you traveled far and wide.

In the last decade some of the introduced species like the Lionfish, the Burmese python and Snakehead have received their share of local and national media attention as different factions with vested interest in Florida matters have shed a light on these particular species to further their own interests. Laws and regulations have been proposed, fought against and passed to keep the further introduction of these species at bay while eradication efforts including extermination and bounties have also been set up. Florida Senate Bill 1236 is the latest of these attempts to correct a problem that exists by focusing on the wrong source and punishing law abiding businesses and pet owners that have never contributed to the release or establishment of the two species being banned.

If you are a concerned citizen of Florida and have a vested interest in the free trade of Iguanas and Tegus or any other species listed above you may want to reach your local Congressmen and Senators by contacting them here http://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/Find. You can also find more information about this issue or any other Reptile related issues at www.USARK.org or www.facebook.com/UnitedStatesAssociationOfReptileKeepers.