- Pets and Animals
Invasion of the 7 Foot Nile Monitor Lizards
Florida Does its Part to Save Exotic Species thanks to an unlikely coalition: a parody
The Nile monitor lizard is large, adults can grow up to 7 feet in length and 5 footers are common.
A vicious predator that will eat anything it can fit into its mouth, it is also notoriously ill tempered.
Native to Africa, the Nile monitor has successfully established a new home in Florida, U.S.A., thanks to the untiring efforts of a coalition of Florida pet stores, reptile importers, local pet owners, liberal State legislators, regional land developers in the Cape Coral area and Florida animal rights groups.
(Photo courtesy of Flickr)
Nile Monitor Lizard Background, Characteristics and History in Florida
"It's Like a Dream Come True" says one local resident
Nile monitor lizards have long been available in Florida pet stores, thanks to liberal State laws concerning the importation of exotic species.
In the early 1990s, reports started surfacing concerning the sightings of gigantic, monster sized lizards in the Cape Coral area. Cape Coral a burgeoning development community of 400 square miles of waterways, home sites and undeveloped land, was the original focal point of lizard resettlement.
Apparently, one local resident was feeding his pregnant, pet, Nile monitor in the backyard, when it suddenly bolted, climbed over his patio fence and made a successful bid for freedom.
In 2003, an attempt to trap, study and eradicate Nile monitors was made by a group of biologists from the University of Florida and local government contracted trappers. Though extremely difficult to trap and handle, the group was successful in capturing and euthanizing approximately 100 of the giant lizards. After euthanization, the lizard's stomach contents, were analyzed to determine its diet.
In this study, it was discovered that the lizards had in fact been feeding on feral dogs, cats and other undesireable creatures. In addition, and in spite of rumors to the contrary, no small children or livestock were found to have been eaten.
The local Nile monitor population at the time of the 2003 research and trapping program was estimated to be upwards of 1,000 and it was further estimated, that there had been a healthy breeding population of these lizards in the Cape Coral area for approximately 10 years.
One of the researchers from the University of Florida had been quoted as saying that if one were to construct a perfect Nile monitor paradise, they would build Cape Coral. Lizard lovers are confident the large reptiles are here to stay.
The Nile monitor lizard is a remarkable and adaptable animal. It can quickly climb trees, walls and houses, is a proficient swimmer and can remain underwater for up to an hour. It is relatively fast and can run at approximately 15 miles an hour. It is a proficient digger and can dig tunnels and underground burrows with ease. The Nile monitor is also a prolific breeder and female lizards lay up to 60 eggs every two years.
In its native Africa, where it is hunted by both man and crocodile, for food, the Nile monitor lizard easily maintains its population density throughout the continent. The Nile monitor is also capable of eating just about anything it can fit into its mouth, from turtles(shell and all) to roadkill. Its favorite food is any sort of eggs.
The Nile monitor is a formidible lizard, with razor sharp claws and teeth, strong jaws and tail and both speed and size. It's cousin, the Komodo Dragon (also a species of monitor lizard) found in Indonesia, grows to 10 feet in length and has been known to hunt and kill both deer and humans. Komodos have also been known to hunt in packs!
Capturing Nile monitors is definitely not for the faint hearted. Their bites can prove nasty and even fatal to humans and other animals, due to the fact that although they are not venomous, they do carry a variety of germs and potentially lethal pathogens in their saliva and medical treatment should be sought immediately. In addition, although they currently attempt to avoid people, if cornered they rear-up on their hind legs, hiss and lash out with their sharp teeth, claws and strong tails.
In spite of the hazards however, many local residents of Cape Coral have become rather attached to their beloved Nile monitors. These elusive creatures have begun showing-up in swimming pools, on roof tops and in garden ponds. One woman described how she heard a noise, looked-up from her ironing and there was a cute Nile monitor staring at her from the other side of her picture window!
Besides the cuteness factor, the big lizards are being credited by locals for keeping the feral dog and cat population under control, as well as eliminating other local pests such as rodents, snakes, and the homeless.
As one local explained, we don't miss the burrowing owls anyway, since we never saw them because they were always in their burrows.
(Photo courtesy of Flickr)
In Florida's Unexpected Wildlife award-winning author Michael Newton describes exotic species recognized by state wildlife authorities; "extinct" species whose passing is disputed or disproved; various aquatic "monsters" said to occupy Florida's rivers, lakes, and offshore waters; alien big cats; and the search for the elusive, enigmatic Skunk Ape--a local relative of Bigfoot. Newton's tales are riveting, and include a six-foot tall emu encountered by a jogger in a subdivision and a "sea serpent" carcass discovered at the mouth of the St. Johns River in the mid-nineteenth century by passengers aboard a schooner. The stories are illustrated with photographs and the incomparable paintings of artist William Rebsamen, hailed as the "John James Audubon of cryptozoology."
Nile Monitor Lizards on the Move!
"watch-out everglades here we come"
Updates on the Nile monitor lizard situation in Southwestern Florida show that the canny lizards have indeed been proliferating and have now made their way out to Pine Island and Sanibel Island off the coast of Cape Coral.
Being strong and excellent swimmers, it is believed these reptiles swam out to the islands and now pose a direct threat to the wildlife sanctuary on Sanibel. Traps have been set in an attempt to capture and eradicate them.
Meanwhile, back on the mainland, one of the prominent biologists from the 2003 Nile monitor research project in Cape Coral, now believes that the Nile monitor is well established throughout south Florida, based on the number of recent sightings and encounters.
"These lizards will eat burrowing owls and other ground dwellers, like popcorn," stated this expert.
(Photo courtesy of Flickr)
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VaranusÂ niloticusÂ Â (Linnaeus, 1766)Common Name: Nile MonitorTaxonomy: available through Identification: A large lizard with a snout-vent length averaging 0
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Florida's Exotic Wildlife. Species detail. Nile MonitorÂ VaranusÂ niloticusÂ First year: 1990 Extirpated year: Established status: Populations are confirmed breeding and apparently self-sustaining for 10 or more consecutive years. Estimated Fl
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