Study: Florida has worst invasive reptile, amphibian problem in the world

    9:44 AM, Sep 28, 2011   |    comments
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    FLORIDA (CNN) -- There's an invasion going on in Florida. Researchers at the University of Florida say the state has the worst invasive reptile and amphibian problem in the world. Many of the animals have been traced back to the exotic pet trade. 

    Many of the dangerous animals reptile expert Chris Gillette has found in this area is an exotic species that shouldn't be anywhere near the U.S.

    One snake in particular found while searching Gillette says does not belong in Florida. He says, "This guy is from Africa. This is an African species of snake. They're very, very common in the pet trade."

    And it was found right next door to an exotic pet importer, along with frogs, lizards, and more snakes. While searching, Gillette says, "Look, look, look at that. Another python. So that's another ball python. Like I said, when you find one, you often find more. Never seen a concentration of exotic reptiles like this in any other spot so clearly this has to be the source."

    The source, according to a University of Florida study, is this exotic pet store Strictly Reptiles.

    The study finds that 25 percent of all established non-native reptiles have been legally distributed through this business. Strictly Reptiles agreed to comment on the phone saying, "Just because they found an animal loose around my facility doesn't mean that it's an invasive species or that it's established itself in the state of Florida."

    Still, what happens after an animal is purchased at any store is difficult to control. Gillette says, "If they're responsible owners, it's not a problem. However, if they're not responsible owners, they will release these animals illegally."

    Illegal, but it's almost impossible to enforce.

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife says the laws are strong enough. They simply said, "Regulations alone will not solve the problem. We see the law as part of a larger effort to increase public awareness of the problem of releasing exotic animals."

    The study ultimately found that Florida has the largest number of non-native reptiles and amphibians in the world. So far there haven't been widespread negative impacts on the environment, but the lead author of the study says it takes decades to see the consequences. Kenneth Krysko, a UF herpetologist says, "For some people to say, 'Oh well, these have no consequences, no negative impacts on our environment at all,' well, okay, let us know in about 30, 40, 50 years. Let's see what actually happens then."

    Researchers in the study found more than 100 non-native reptile and amphibian species were introduced in Florida between 1863 and 2010.

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