People have a natural curiosity about exotic animals. Many species are available to buy and keep as pets. Unfortunately, many of these pets can grow too large or aggressive for people to keep them in their homes and are then released into the woods and neighboring swamps. This practice is beginning to disrupt the natural ecosystems of many of our natural communities, including our neighboring national park – the Florida Everglades. A good example is someone who walks into a pet store and realizes that they can buy a small Nile Monitor Lizard for less than $20. A compulsive buy quickly grows into a seven-legged aggressive carnivorous predator. Unable to care for this animal and/or afraid of the giant lizard, they released it into the wild.
Millions of exotic animals are imported into the United States each year. Some were acquitted, as in the example above, while others escaped. Many of these animals still live and thrive in Florida, with its tropical climate and many marshy areas, beaches, lakes and ponds. Reptiles, birds and other mammals breed in the wild, multiply quickly and become a nuisance. At worst, these “misplaced” species can become so invasive that the natural ecological system becomes disturbed with the uprooting and decimation of other natural flora and fauna. It is important to notify a wildlife professional if there are exotic animals in your home or neighborhood. These animals and reptiles can be very dangerous and aggressive and special relocation and removal techniques are used to ensure the safety of the animal/reptile and the handler/person involved.
Recently there have been media reports of frequent encounters between Cape Coral residents and large Nile Monitor Lizards. In the latest news, a twenty-foot Burmese Python was removed from a backyard in suburban Miami. These are just a few examples of “exotic pet shopping run amok.”
Another theory for the explosion of “exotic species” in the wild spaces of Southwest Florida is the turbulence caused by Hurricane Andrew. Many exotic reptile import areas are damaged, and then release various exotic species into the wild. Several of these species have been tracked north of Central Florida. Venomous snake species like the African Green Mamba and King Cobras have been reported from reliable sources in marginal areas of Southeast Florida and the Everglades.
This species poses a real threat to South Florida’s wildlife, people and animals. From African “Killer Bees” to venomous snakes and lizards. These imported species pose ecological and public health problems for the future.