State wildlife agency works to eradicate Nile monitor lizards in the wild, but ignores monitor lizards sold in pet stores
July 16th, 2011 by admin
This summer there have been numerous sightings of free-ranging Nile monitor lizards in Broward and Palm Beach counties. In response, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) recently issued a news release calling on people to report sightings. A hotline (888-IVE-GOT1) and a website (www.IveGot1.org) have been set up to make it easy for the public to report sightings. FWC spokesperson Scott Hardin explained, “This is a high-priority species for us.”
In addition to growing very large, Nile monitor lizards are known for their aggressive nature, and sharp teeth and claws. It goes without saying that these animals make very poor “pets,” but the exotic pet trade is almost certainly where these lizards came from.
Nile monitors are illegal to possess or sell as pets in Florida, thanks to a bill that ARFF strongly supported during the 2010 legislative session. Unfortunately, other species of monitor lizards are available for purchase at local pet stores. For example, water monitors– lizards that can grow to be just as big or bigger than Nile monitors– are offered for sale at Underground Reptiles in Deerfield Beach and at Wild Cargo Pets in West Palm Beach. At Reptiles Plus in Lake Worth, you can purchase a black-throated monitor, a species that only reaches lengths of seven feet.
It is inevitable that some of the reptiles purchased at these stores will escape, or be abandoned into the wild after they become too large or expensive to care for. Unless the FWC wants to issue a similar news release in the future alerting the public to be on the lookout for water monitors, the sale and possession of these reptiles must be prohibited.
Contact the FWC and urge them to designate the water monitor (Varanus salvator), and other large, potentially dangerous species of monitor lizards as “conditional reptiles,” which would make their sale as personal pets illegal.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
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Stopping the trade in potentially dangerous reptiles is a common-sense idea that would benefit animal welfare, improve public safety and protect Florida’s fragile environment.