FLORIDA CITY, Fl -- Yet another invasive species, is endangering the ecological balance of the Florida Everglades.
Scientist assert that the "tegu" lizard is disrupting the delicate ecosystem balance of the Florida Everglades.
These South American aborigines reptiles threaten to overtake the swamplands of South Florida. The species was first observed in South Florida in the year 2008 and now considered are the latest and most aggressive invasive species. They are wasting no time expanding, almost reproducing faster than another troublesome invasive critter to the Everglades: the Burmese python. "Their numbers are increasing rapidly," Rochford said about the tegu. "We worry about what they might be capable of."
The lizards are bringing trouble to South Florida's ecosystem by preying on native, endangered animals and their eggs. "The alligators, the turtles that we see and we love, really bring Florida to the map," said UF researcher Kyle Allen. "They're at a huge risk."
Their eating habits are bringing a huge concern to the Florida Everglades. "We know they eat alligator eggs. We're not sure about crocodile eggs yet, but if they get in there, there's potential for them to really harm that species," Rochford said.
To prevent any more serious damage, UF researchers are taking action as well. They've set traps in the southern Everglades, and they're placing GPS systems on tegus to track them. "Just this year, between several agencies, we've removed over 500," Rochford said. "Every year, it's getting higher and higher."
The tegu lizards are sold in pet stores, but they can grow to nearly four feet long. "A lot of people just let them go, and that's just where the problem is," Allen said.
Now, biologists and wildlife conservationists want the public to help by spreading awareness. "Tegus are going to be in urban areas. They're going to be in people's backyards," said one conservationist. "If you see them, we want you to call, we want to know where they are."
If you spot a tegu, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission would like to hear from you. Call them at 888-IVE-GOT-ONE.