~ Green Iguana ~
Slamdunks reminded me of this photo on Monday when he mentioned unwanted visitors to the U.S. in the form of spiders and snakes. The green iguana is a species indigenous to Central and South America but is a common sight now in South Florida, thought to be originally escapees (deliberate releases included) from the exotic pet trade. This one was probably very nearly fully grown at 4-5 feet long and I came across him in Vizcaya Gardens in Miami where he had just sauntered along by the ocean before disappearing into the undergrowth. I think he’s very beautiful but he doesn’t belong in Florida and his presence will undoubtedly have upset the delicate balance of nature.
Accidental pet escapes unfortunately sometimes happen. Deliberate releases are unforgivable. Slamdunks’ comment happened to come a day after I had watched a programme on how another pet trade escapee is becoming quite a problem in Florida – the Burmese python, a snake that grows up to 200 pounds in weight and can have a girth the size of a telephone pole. Not only is it competing with Florida’s indigenous species for food and prey, it poses a threat to pets and even children. Scientists had hoped that changes in temperature as they travel further north would restrict their spread to tropical climes but have been alarmed to find that this isn’t so. In an experiment, a population of male pythons released into a secure environment in South Carolina, where temperatures can plummet to zero in winter, appeared to thrive even at low temperatures. On that basis, it’s now believed that this predator is capable of spreading up into the entire lower third of the U.S. and on the west coast of America could reach as far north as San Francisco.
As if that’s not something to really make you think, the truly alarming news is that the African python has now been discovered in the wilds of Florida. As one herpetologist put it, this is a snake with a bad attitude, one that he claims will attack without provocation. Why anyone would want one as a pet in the first place is anyone’s guess, especially when you read its’ vital statistics: the third largest snake in the world, living up to 30 years, potentially growing to 30ft in length and can weigh in excess of 250 pounds. The construction of their jaws means that they are able, and have occasionally been seen to eat prey up to the size of an antelope, (videos are up there on YouTube if you have a burning desire to see for yourself).
This is certainly not a snake that I’d want living at the bottom of my garden and yet because of human intervention, these animals are now inhabiting wild areas of mainland U.S. and, dare I say it, may already be on the move.
Sometimes I’m very thankful to be living in the boondocks, on an island, surrounded by ocean.
Burmese Python photo from Wikipedia, Creative Commons Licence