Sat, Apr 16, 2016 - Page 5 News List

Former pet iguanas become nuisance around Kaohsiung

By Jonathan Chin  /  Staff writer, with Liberty Times

Abandoned by fickle pet owners, green iguanas roaming Kaohsiung’s countryside are becoming a public nuisance and a threat to environmental conservation, the Kaohsiung Bureau of Agriculture said.

According to TVBS, a green iguana fad last year coincided with the film Jurassic World. The iguana’s resemblance to dinosaurs is believed to have been a factor in their short-lived popularity, and during the height of their popularity, a young iguana measuring about 60cm long could sell for NT$1,000.

However, fully grown green iguanas are on average between 1.2m and 1.7m long, and many pet owners are not prepared to care for a fully grown reptile, leading to their release. They have become an increasingly common sight in the nation’s southern regions.

The invasive species’ presence in Taiwan is a serious matter, the bureau said.

The iguanas have no natural predators in Taiwan and young reptiles prey on insects and bird eggs. As the reptiles mature, their size, appetite and danger to the environment and agriculture increases, the bureau said.

Adult green iguanas eat crops, and destroy river embankments and ditches, and when in heat, attack humans, the bureau said.

The bureau has established a task force with a National Pingtung University of Science and Technology professor and his students to combat the threat, it said.

Nicknamed “The Dino Hunters,” the team last year captured 600 green iguanas in the greater Kaohsiung-Pingtung area, with Shoushan Zoo providing temporary shelter to more than 30 of the reptiles, the bureau said.

The abandoned iguanas have established footholds in Pingtung’s Jhutian Township (竹田), Kaohsiung’s Niaosong District (鳥松), Tainan’s Erjen River (二仁溪) tributary and Chiayi’s wetlands, the agriculture bureau said, adding that the task force is catching as many green iguanas as it can to roll back the threat.

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