Iguana Invasion! Exotic Pets Gone Wild in Florida
Florida is a beautiful place. Who can blame exotic animals for attempting to survive their abandonment in our yards and parks, seeking out food and shelter, raising their families here? Arenít we doing the same things the animals are? Arenít we to blame for bringing them here for our amusement in the first place?
Of the many exotic animals dumped around our state, some species have thrived and are here to stay. It is our fault they are here, so we need to take responsibility for them. There are two things we can do right now to help our state with the exotic species problem:
Kids are fascinated by animals, and by new and unusual species in particular. When a child goes to a pet store or zoo, they may beg their parents to buy them an exotic pet. It is up to the parents to just say no. Tell your children the truth: As cute or interesting as these animals may be, exotics do not make good pets.
As a parent, you must realize that the special care of your kidsí exotic pets will most likely become your sole responsibility. Exotic animals require extra care and attention--no matter how they are advertised by the pet trade. They may need special nutrition, lighting, temperature control, and veterinary care. Their needs can become expensive.
Exotic pets may be appealing as babies, but they all grow up. Juvenile animals can become aggressive due to hormonal changes. Adult animals can be much, much larger than the cute little pet you purchased not so long ago.
Since 2006, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has been sponsoring Exotic Pet Amnesty Days. Events are held on weekends in cities around the state. Unwanted pets can be turned in. Disease-free pets are then adopted out to approved homes. In 2008, more than 150 exotic pets were turned over to qualified owners at the Exotic Pet Amnesty Day held at the Miami Metro Zoo.
Wildlife biologists studying invasive species have yet to discover a practical solution to our exotic invasion problem. A variety of complaints associated with invasive exotics have begun to emerge as policy issues at the federal, state, and local levels. Programs are in place around the state to try to manage the populations of some non-native species. Changes in the law requiring licensure for ownership of certain exotic pets have reduced the availability of some of the most dangerous species. More new laws to further restrict exotic animal ownership are being discussed by the Florida State Legislature.
In the meantime, you can do something to help. You can choose to not contribute to the problem. If your children beg for a pet parrot or iguana, giant snake or other unique animal, you can buy them a book instead. Iguana Invasion: Exotic Pets Gone Wild in Florida is an excellent reference book for identifying non-native animals in Florida. Colorful photographs illustrate the informative text, helping readers to appreciate the wild beauty of animals that are best left to live in their native habitat.
Recommended by the National Science Teachers Association