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Green Iguanas: Potential Threat to Puerto Rico

Elides Camps / 16 years / Puerto Rico

Image: Eliudes Camps 2019

The green iguana, more commonly known in PuertoRico as “gallina de palo” (Tree Chicken) must be eradicated from the island, expresses biologist Ramòn L. Rivera from the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources.

The exotic species comes from Central And South America, it was introduced to the island in the last decades. There are numerous ways the iguanas reached the island, between them, illegal export, sea currents dragging vegetation, dragging with it the animal. There is also the possibility that the species was brought by accident on a shipment ir boarding boat from South America or from central american countries.

In an interview with biologist Ramòn L. Rivera, he emphasized that the green iguana belongs to the 10 % of exotic animals that manage to effectively establish themselves in new territories for its species. He specified that Iguanas prefer areas that have been recently modified, abandoned and disturbed areas. “Disturbed areas have a diversity of vegetation, nesting, hiding places and its more accesible and pleasant for the survival of the species. Grounds where proliferation is exponential are in grounds like beaches, mangroves and plains near the coasts.” “Making a census on this species is difficult because they can reproduce two times a year. This reptile is capable of making litters of 40 eggs where 90% of it is fertile. It is also capable of stocking sperm for elongated periods of time without the necessity of a male being present for the process of fertilization, causing the species to reproduce and spread massively around the island.”

This overproduction is caused by the absence of apredator to prey on the reptile. Just like it is also a species that is not consumed regularly in Puerto Rico like in other parts of America. Ironically, in South America, the iguana is an endangered species due to its consumption. Meanwhile Puerto Rico’s population quite literally consists of more of these creatures than humans.

These creatures can affect other species creating overlaps in near habitats causing an unbalance in the ecosystems where iguanas fight with other animals for ground, vegetation and nesting. Smaller animals like coquíes, crabs, neonates of turtles and birds can be pray for young iguanas that are in development and in food experimentation.

Image: Eliudes Camps 2019

Rivera mentions that “they threaten both flora and fauna with their consumption.” In this way affecting native and autochthonous species from Puerto Rico that reside in the area.

Iguanas are an animal that cause incalculable expenses and losses in the island. From structural damage in electricity systems, damage to terrains and grounds due to the holes they make in cultivation and ornamental plantations, to the expenses wasted in the attempt to control the species.

This problem can be solved through protocol like the ones utilized in many natural reserves where they control the reproduction of the species. “The current plan of action is the promotion to more studies, investigations, responsable form of consumption and the production of products that require the use of the green iguana.” Said Rivera.

The solutions sound radical, but they are necessary to conserve our native species and the economic interests that are in danger because of this species. The control and decrease is necessary for the good development of our ecosystems and society.

Image: P. Venes 2019

References:

G. Alvarado. (Enero 2019). La iguana es la especiemás atropellada en Puerto Rico. El Nuevo Dia. Recopilado de: https://www.elnuevodia.com/noticias/locales/nota/laiguanaeslaespeciemasatropelladaenpuertorico-24731 77/

Univision. (Febrero 2016). A la caza de la plaga de lasiguanas en Puerto Rico. Univision Puerto Rico. Recuperado de: https://www.univision.com/local/puertorico-wlii/a-la-caza-de-la-plaga-de-las-iguanas-enpuerto- rico

P. Venes. ( julio 2015). Héroes de la cosecha. Índice.Recopilado de: http://www.indicepr.com/suroeste/ noticias/2015/07/09/45417/heroes-de-la-cosecha/

A. Aguilar. ( octubre 2017). Aves, roedores, reptiles…¿cómo cuidar a las mascotas pequeñas y exóticas?. 20 minutos. Recuperado de: https://www.20minutos.es/ noticia/3129945/0/pequenas-mascotas-exoticascuidados/

Anipedia. (Na). Alimentación de las iguanas. Anipedia.

Recopilado de: https://www.anipedia.net/iguanas/alimentacion-iguanas/

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