|"Green Iguana, Costa Rica" by CarolineG2011 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0|
I’ve recently stumbled upon this article that was a response to the proliferating green iguana population in Florida and the Florida Wildlife Commission’s (FWC) now revised declaration to “kill green iguanas on their own property whenever possible”.
The Sun Sentinel writer writes:
“I’m grateful you included recommendations by biological anthropologist Barbara King for what to do about iguanas. Dr. King rightfully points out that as long as exotic species are bred, sold, bought and imported, this problem will not go away.
The pythons that thrive in our Everglades were dumped there because people who had to have a novelty pet grew tired of them. The same goes for iguanas. It's not the animals' fault that they managed not only to survive, but to flourish."
This again exemplifies the mentality of my earlier post that states people don’t like exotic pet owners simply because their pets aren’t common. You can see how the statement “had to have a novelty pet” is just dripping with spite, and for what?
So iguanas and other reptiles haven’t been kept as pets as long as ‘traditional’ pets like dogs and cats, and that for some reason makes them a “novelty” and this is a terrible thing?
Furthermore, people neglect, abandon, and cruelly treat non-novelty pets as well.
Many of those said non-novelty pets have become a severe environmental problem, one that easily exceeds the damage that iguanas, which are restricted to a small portion of Florida, cause. So I’m not understanding where the outrage is coming from.
And then, perhaps even more frustratingly insidious is the implication that the writer is making, which mirrors the mentality of the people whom not only seem not to care about the damage that ‘traditional’ pets cause, but they also plead for us to cease our efforts to effectively control them.
Just as the cat nutters absolutely refuse to support (or at least, stop feverishly trying to undermine) any protective measures that involve euthanizing cats, this author is implying we shouldn’t remove the iguanas at all, but rather, just strip exotic pet owners of their freedoms (“it's not the animals' fault”) and leave all else be.
Apparently, making it illegal to own iguanas will make them magically disappear.
The Sun Sentinel describes the FWC as giving the exotic pet industry a “free pass”, despite the fact that Florida has plenty of regulations for exotic animal possession, exotic pet amnesty days, and stringent laws against releasing exotics. Sure, the problem still exists, just as any law can't fully annihilate offenders from offending.
Just because one species is not completely illegal is not a “free pass”, that description better fits the cat and dog industry.
The Sun Sentinel writer’s sentiment is in agreement with Barbara King, whom unsurprisingly has written books on animal cognition and 'emotion' (always a huge red flag, these books are often pseudo-scientific arguments for animal rights). The ‘biological anthropologist’ states:
“It’s banning the commercial import, sale, and breeding of the iguanas in Florida that would be the effective and ethical action to take.
The pet trade is a main reason why these iguanas end up roaming in the wild, and it should be regulated. It's completely disingenuous of the FWC to claim that it's working in the best interest of Florida's citizens when it won't do what is required by a commitment to both conservation science and to the compassionate treatment of animals.”
Both writers seem to indirectly suggest that the iguanas should not be removed.
It is essentially the height of nuttery for these two individuals to believe that banning iguanas as pets will resolve the issue without killing any of them, and it is a stunning example of how even a person with presumed scientific credentials will listen to their emotions over logic.
Furthermore, Florida is (surprisingly) working in the interest of the public. Iguanas are popular pets and thus Floridian officials understand that banning them is not only likely to be ineffective, but also isn’t right, just as it wouldn’t be right to ban invasive domestic felines (but it would be incredibly logical to ban people from allowing them to roam wherever they want, they need to work on that).
An iguana ban won’t stop the lizards from being smuggled from other states illegally, and their illicit status would likely encourage even more releases. A ban also won’t stop iguanas that may be entering the state as stowaways from plant shipments , a possible method of introduction that is overlooked when people focus on disparaging exotic pet owners.
These two writers appear to simply be opportunists looking at the green iguana issue as a chance to push animal rights ideology. How else can anyone explain the lunacy of their call to take away rights from humans while protecting the invasive iguanas, an idea that will surely not diminish their population?
Will banning iguanas as pets help reduce their population? Only if it is done in conjunction with aggressive removal efforts—in other words, the very control measure these two half-wits are arguing against, unless they can come up with thousands of homes for the 6 foot wild reptiles.
It is also interesting to note that iguanas have been so successful in the wilds of Florida because of the ornamental, non-native plants that humans favor . The exotic plant trade is never viewed with the same disdain that the exotic pet trade is, even though herbaceous invasive species are just as big of a problem.
Green iguanas are not proliferating in the wilds of the Everglades because of the lack of suitable vegetation and the heavy presence of natural predators. Human-disturbed environments loaded with the unnatural plants that iguanas love and the removal of predators like raccoons  is the reason why iguanas went from a few small populations in the 1960’s to exploding in the 1990’s .
It is not just evil exotic pet owners whom have admittedly contributed to ecological upset, but rather, a synergy of human impact. Naturally of course, we get all the blame, and it is suggested that ridding us of our pets will make all right with the world again.
- Meshaka Jr, Walter E., et al. "Green Iguanas (Iguana iguana): the unintended consequence of sound wildlife management practices in a south Florida park." (2007).
- Meshaka, Walter E., et al. "Raccoon (Proycon lotor) removal and the rapid colonization of the green iguana (Iguana iguana) on a public land in South Florida: A conservation opportunity for the Caribbean." Caribbean journal of science 45.1 (2009): 15-20.
- Meshaka Jr, Walter E., Richard D. Bartlett, and Henry T. Smith. "Colonization success by green iguanas in Florida." Iguana 11.3 (2004): 154-161.
- Smith, Henry T., et al. "Raccoon predation as a potential limiting factor in the success of the green iguana in southern Florida." (2006).
- Smith, Henry T., Elizabeth Golden, and Walter E. Meshaka Jr. "Population density estimates for a green iguana (Iguana iguana) colony in a Florida state park." Journal of Kansas Herpetology 21.21 (2007): 19-20.
- Townsend, Josiah H., Kenneth L. Krysko, and Kevin M. Enge. "Introduced iguanas in southern Florida: a history of more than 35 years." Iguana 10.4 (2003): 111-118.