Following the rapid growth of the green iguana population in Pingtung County, more than 5,000 of them were captured during the first nine months of this year, a local official said yesterday.
From January to last month, 5,480 green iguanas were captured, more than the 4,182 captured in all of last year, Pingtung Department of Agriculture Director Cheng Yung-yu (鄭永裕) said.
The green iguana, also known as the American iguana, has no natural predators in Taiwan and has caused extensive damage to agricultural crops, irrigation channels and ecosystems in the nation. One of the first campaigns to address the problem was launched by New Taipei City in 2013.
Photo provided by the Pingtung County Government
The number of green iguanas captured in Pingtung is the highest in Taiwan due to the county’s campaign to curb the reptiles, Cheng said, adding that it is difficult to estimate the real size of the green iguana population.
The department said that local residents should call 1999 when seeing green iguanas, and trained personnel would be dispatched to capture them.
Those whose reports result in the capture of an iguana of more than 20cm in length would be rewarded with local produce, such as red beans, it added.
People should be careful if they try to capture an iguana, the department said, adding that they should make sure to not get bitten or hit by the reptile’s tail.
The department also reminded people of a Council of Agriculture regulation that requires owners of green iguanas, which are listed as “exotic wildlife dangerous to the environment, people or animals” to register with the local authorities and obtain a permit before Nov. 30.
This rule was stipulated because pet owners releasing their iguanas into the wild are believed to be responsible for the spike in the reptile’s population, it said.
Under the Wildlife Conservation Act (野生動物保育法), those who fail to obtain a permit face fines of NT$10,000 to NT$50,000, the department said, adding that owners who no longer wish to keep the animal as a pet should contact it for assistance.
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