‘Iguana Lady’ Jeanne Brodsky with several color variations of Green Iguana- Photo by Mike Stocker
This morning when I woke up, I sat down to drink my coffee and check my phone for messages. A Google news alert grabbed my attention. Channel 7 News Miami ‘We get a lot of Iguana calls.‘
It turns out that the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, including the SWAT team, has been sent out numerous times to respond to calls of sniper like activities.
To quote Channel 7 News, “Lt. Avery Figueras said emergency calls about people shooting at the big lizards, have created a big safety concern in the city, and not for the reptiles.“
I don’t want to be the type of person that throws in your face the statement, “I told you so,” but I told you so.
A couple of years ago, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) released statements to the media encouraging the public to kill the Common Green Iguana (Iguana iguana), because it was an "invasive species." After initial problems with that approach, they said, “This is not the Wild West,” and told people to "kill them humanely." However, they provided no instruction on what was considered humane.
FWC does not want to approach that subject, because there is no feasible way the public can humanely kill and exterminate the species. Many urban South Florida residents actually like the big lizards that seem to be peacefully coexisting with residents while, for the most part, not endangering native wildlife or landscapes.
FWC's goal was to get public interest and to create a hate mob towards this animal that has been documented to be established in South Florida since the 1950’s. FWC's other motivation for demonizing Common Green Iguanas was to stir up public support for banning this popular pet species in captivity.
The real issue here is that there is a competition for South Florida’s real estate, not just for people but for animals too. Look at the property values now compared to the 1950’s. It’s amazing that South Floridian people can still survive here. Very few native animals or plants survive in South Florida's urban landscape, but Iguanas have found a way.
In 2019, the Iguana ban passed and the killing continued. FWC did not allow a reasonable system for live Iguanas to continue to be caught out of the wild and exported out of the state as pets.
As Export Manager at Strictly Reptiles Inc., I sold and shipped farmed Iguanas. Less than 5% were sold to Florida destinations. I exported to countries around the world. This was a strong global market. FWC's Iguana Ban shut down that business.
FWC said, "We don't want to export our invasive problem to other states." This seems silly knowing that Iguanas are very cold sensitive and can't even survive the winters as far north as Central Florida, much less other states. Cold winters kill off many Iguanas in South Florida.
So, what has been accomplished by this ban/regulation?
Eradication of the wild Common Green Iguana has not worked. There are more Common Green Iguanas visible in urban areas than before the 2019 ban, and it is getting worse.
FWC shut down the business for the pet trade market. Pet trade dealers were banned and no longer allowed to buy and ship out of the state harvested or farm-raised live Common Green Iguanas. Licensed and Permitted dealers took a great revenue loss.
FWC created a new revenue gain market for companies and individuals to be hired to kill lizards. FWC shifted the focus from live animal business to the killing-of-animals business.
FWC promoted an action that led to animal cruelty. They directed the public to kill Common Green Iguanas which has led to numerous animal cruelty treatments.
FWC has created a safety hazard. The public, including children, are at risk while the “Wild West” hunters with their rifles and archery sets walk around neighborhoods and city environments.
There is a solution that is simple and will work:
Call off the dogs. Stop promoting the killing of the Common Green Iguana to the public. Tell them to stop killing animals. Let the pest removal companies deal with that.
Allow Pet Trade companies to buy and sell Common Green Iguanas. Allow licensed/permitted pet businesses with Class III licenses to buy wild harvested and farm-produced Iguanas, for the purpose of exporting out of the state of Florida.
Allow the public to harvest live Common Green Iguanas. Let the public gain financial profit by doing something nice: harvesting live instead of killing.
All this sends a much nicer statement to the world, that Florida is a beautiful state of tropical birds, flora, and fauna. We all want to protect it and love it.
Thank you for your time and compassion.
Jeanne Brodsky is a longtime South Florida resident with over 40 years’ experience in the pet business. She was an export manager and office manager for Strictly Reptiles Inc. in Hollywood for 32 years. Before that, she worked in sales for seven years at Pet Farm Inc. in Miami. She now works closely with Howard Fluker, the world-renowned breeder of Blue Diamond Iguanas. She was one of the largest marketer's of domestic and export sales of captive-produced iguanas from Iguana Farm-El Salvador before FWC made the Green Iguana a "Prohibited Species" in Florida.