Unusually cold temperatures throughout the Sunshine State have highlighted a key environmental threat facing Florida: the spread of non-native, invasive species often imported as pets and the need for a more proactive approach to these invaders, which threaten to drive some native species to extinction.
Reports of iguanas, pushed to a comatose state by the cold, falling from trees in South Florida have buzzed through the blogosphere. A 12-foot green anaconda snake was captured in the wild in Osceola County on Monday. A state-led hunt this week in western Miami-Dade County has led to the capture of African rock pythons—more problematic than the better-known Burmese python—in the wild.
“We need to become more proactive in the United States and start assessing species before they become widespread in trade,” says Kristina Serbesoff-King, manager for The Nature Conservancy’s Florida Statewide Invasive Species Program.
“Fighting species by species after they’re already here is inefficient, at best,” says Serbesoff-King, who also serves on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Reptiles of Concern Technical Assistance Group.
The Nature Conservancy supports current federal legislation, House Bill 669, which would help prevent invasive wildlife by requiring that the U.S .Fish and Wildlife Service proactively assess risks associated with imported wildlife and prohibit importation of those species likely to be invasive.
The Nature Conservancy also has recommended that separate proposed legislation banning import of all pythons be amended to include the nine large constrictor species, including the Burmese python, assessed by the U.S. Geological Survey in its 2009 report, "Giant Constrictors: Biological and Management Profiles and an Establishment Risk Assessment for Nine Large Species of Pythons, Anacondas, and the Boa Constrictor."
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.