Florida takes aim at cat-eat­ing African lizards

The China Post - - LIFE -

A cat-eat­ing lizard na­tive to Africa is be­ing tar­geted by Florida state wildlife of­fi­cials who say the crea­tures, known as Nile mon­i­tors, could be danger­ous to pets and peo­ple.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice said Fri­day it is “in­creas­ing ef­forts to lo­cate and re­move them,” par­tic­u­larly along canals in Palm Beach County, north of Miami.

The lizards can be mis­taken for igua­nas and typ­i­cally grow to 1.5 me­ters long. Their mot­tled col­or­ing may be yel­low, olive or brown.

Nile mon­i­tors have been known to eat cats as well as other small mam­mals, bur­row­ing owls, fish and frogs, ac­cord­ing to bi­ol­o­gist Jenny Ket­ter­lin Eck­les of the Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice.

“Be­cause their diet is so var­ied, we are as­sess­ing whether this species may have an im­pact on Florida’s na­tive wildlife,” she said.

Since the Nile mon­i­tors’ breed­ing sea­son is ap­proach­ing, of­fi­cials said this is a good time to ramp up their pa­trols and called on lo­cal cit­i­zens to re­port sight­ings and “se­cure small pets.”

They asked any­one who sees a Nile mon­i­tor, whether bask­ing in the sun by the wa­ter or ex­plor­ing their backyard, to take a pic­ture and re­port it to IveGot1.org.

“Mem­bers of the public are ad­vised not to at­tempt to cap­ture a Nile mon­i­tor them­selves,” warned the Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice.

“Mon­i­tors are not in­nately ag- gres­sive but like any wild an­i­mal they may de­fend them­selves if ag­gra­vated or threat­ened.”

Other non-na­tive crea­tures that have made Florida home in­clude Burmese pythons and li­on­fish, which sci­en­tists have la­beled in­va­sive species be­cause they harm the lo­cal ecosys­tem and up­set the nat­u­ral bal­ance of preda­tor and prey.

AFP

This un­dated photo ob­tained Fri­day, April 10 cour­tesy of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Com­mis­sion shows a Nile mon­i­tor. The cat-eat­ing lizards that are na­tive to Africa are be­ing tar­geted by Florida state wildlife of­fi­cials who say the crea­tures could be danger­ous to pets and peo­ple.

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