People have a natural curiosity about exotic animals. Many species are available to purchase and keep as pets. Unfortunately, many of these pets can grow to be too large or aggressive for people to maintain in their homes and are then released into neighboring forests and swamps. This practice has started to upset the natural ecosystem in many of our natural communities, including our neighboring national park – The Florida Everglades. A good example is the person who enters a pet store and realize that they can purchase a small Nile Monitor Lizard for less than $20. A compulsive purchase quickly grows into a seven-foot aggressive carnivorous predator. No longer able to take care of this pet and/or is afraid of the giant lizard so they release it into the wild.
Millions of exotic animals are imported each year into the United States. Some are released, like the example above, while others escape. Many of these animals are surviving and thriving here in florida, with our tropical climate and many marshy areas, beaches, lakes and ponds. These reptiles, birds and other mammals are breeding in the wild, quickly multiplying and becoming a nuisance. At its worst, these “misplaced” species can become so invasive that natural ecological systems become disrupted with the uprooting and decimation of other natural flora and fauna. It is important to notify wildlife professionals if an exotic animal is found around your home or neighborhood. These animals and reptiles can be very dangerous and aggressive and special relocation and removal techniques are employed to ensure the safety of the animal/reptile and the handler/people involved.
Recently there have been media reports concerning frequent encounters between residents of Cape Coral 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 purchases run amok.”
Other theories for the explosion of “exotic species” in the wild spaces of Southwest Florida was the turbulence caused by Hurricane Andrew. Many exotic reptile import holding areas were damaged, subsequently releasing many varieties of exotic species into the wild. Some of these species have been tracked as far north as Central Florida. Venomous species of snakes like the African Green Mamba and King Cobras have been reported from credible sources in suburban areas of Southeast Florida and the Everglades.
These species create a real threat to natural wildlife in Southern Florida, people and animals alike. From Africanized “Killer Bees” to venomous snakes and lizards. These imported species pose a serious ecological and public health concern for the future.