Florida's Dragon Problem

(Photo: Malcolm Manners)

Arkive describes the Nile monitor:

The Nile monitor (Varanus niloticus) is not only Africa’s largest lizard but also one of the continent’s most voracious predators (3). Stout-bodied and powerful, this formidable reptile has an elongated snake-like head, sharp claws, and a long, compressed tail which it uses to great effect when under threat (3) (4) (5).

These dangerous predators can grow up to 2 meters long. So, naturally, people want to keep them as pets.

Wildlife experts in the United States are worried. They're looking at Florida, the Australia of America, which is already packed with animals that want to kill you, including alligators, snakes, and spiders. It's also the adopted home of many invasive species, such as cane toads and Burmese pythons.

Florida is prime real estate for invasive reptiles and amphibians. And pet Nile monitors, should they ever escape or be set free by terrified owners, would like the place. Then they could sweep across the United States. Ed Yong of The Atlantic talked to biology doctoral student Stephanie Dowell:

It can survive through the cold and frosty winters of southern Africa by hibernating. If it got into the U.S., Dowell’s simulations predict that it could make itself comfortable across the eastern and western seaboards, especially if the climate continues to warm.

“If, for example, we decided to crack down on the trade in West Africa, and the exploitation shifted to south Africa, that lineage could spread very quickly,” says Hekkala. “Its invasiveness is much greater. It is so pre-adapted to the North American climate that it could spread almost to Chicago, even without climate change.”

-via Dave Barry

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