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iguana tagging

A green iguana receives a tag.

Yesterday we hosted Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) second “Tag Your Reptile Day” in our Nyami Nyami River Lodge. With the help of FWC biologists who are trained to safely handle reptiles, our veterinarians tagged 33 green iguanas and eight Argentine black and white tegus at no charge to their owners.

These events are being held statewide through mid-July in response to FWC rule changes that list 16 “high-risk” nonnative reptile species as prohibited. If they are released or escape, these animals can cause great harm to our environment and economy; for example, Burmese pythons seem to be wiping out mammal populations in Everglades National Park, and green iguanas in south Florida feed on vegetation native animals need to survive.

Nonpermitted individuals who owned these species before the rule changes went into effect on April 29 can keep their pets for the remainder of the animals’ lives, but a free annual permit is required, and the animals must be marked with a passive integrated transponder by July 29.

These tags, which we also use on our patients at the Sea Turtle Healing Center, are inserted under an animal’s skin. Each tag has a code that can be read when an animal is scanned and cross-referenced with a database; this will enable FWC to identify and contact pet owners when loose reptiles are captured.

Upcoming tagging events will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine on June 12, ZooTampa at Lowry Park on June 19, South Florida Science Center and Aquarium on June 26 and Lee County Domestic Animal Services on July 11. No appointment is necessary; animals are tagged as owners wait on a first-come, first-serve basis while supplies last.