Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tegu Invasion

Tagus in Florida
Tagu lizards from South America appear to be the next invasive species on the list of unwanted exotics in South Florida after burmese pythons and nile monitors steered repeatedly  for “bad” publicity throughout the national media over the last two decades. These large lizards are not as shy like other monitors. They will try to stand their ground on some occasions with their body erected and mouth wide open. I encountered once a large male tagu digging up an alligator nest and feeding on its eggs. I must have placed my camera a little to close and the next thing I knew was an angry lizard dashing towards me on its back legs and jabbing its sharp teeth into my lens’s plastic cover. It is quite a thrill to watch this lizards chasing angrily after intruders, which reminded me somewhat of a mini T-Rex version from the Jurassic Park movie.
Black-and white tagus, also know as the giant argentine tegus, are native to South America and reached Florida, like the infamous burmese pythons, through the pet traded. Tagus have been and still are popular pets with many reptile owners. They can become docile and are easy to handle. But they also grow fast and can reach up to five foot in length within a few years. Many unwanted tagu lizards have been released back into the wild. They adopted well to their new environment and established quick a breeding population throughout Florida. 
Like nile monitors, tegus love to feed on eggs and do so frequently. They also prey on young animals like rodents, ground-nesting birds and turtles, which could impact threatened and endangered species, including the American Crocodiles and the Gopher Tortoises. Tagus are opportunistic predators and consume a variety of small prey, carrion (dead animals), fruits and other plant matter. They inhabit dry, upland areas with sandy soils, including natural, urbanized, and agricultural areas. These lizards dig burrows, but also frequently invade the burrows of native Gopher Tortoises. They remain underground during late fall and winter months. Females lay approximately 5 eggs per clutch up to twice per year. Lifespan of these lizards is 15 to 20 years.

No comments:

Post a Comment