TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Invasive green iguanas continue to plague southern Taiwan, wreaking havoc on agricultural produce, irrigation ditches, and ecological balance.
Pingtung Department of Agriculture Director Cheng Yung-yu (鄭永裕) said that the county government has put in place a program to reward people who catch green iguanas with agricultural produce as a reward. The program has yielded a staggering haul of 5,480 iguanas in the first nine months of this year, which is the most in the country and a significant increase compared to the 4,182 caught in all of 2019, according to a CNA report.
The scale of the green iguana problem in the region is difficult to estimate, according to Cheng.
Agricultural authorities said that the 'Godzilla-like' reptiles have mainly been found in Pingtung City, Wandan Township, Zhutian Township, Linluo Township, Chaojhou Township, and Jiuru Township.
As the invasive species like to dig burrows in embankment ditches, they have frequently caused damage to irrigation systems, Cheng added.
Green iguanas can reproduce quickly, with a mother green iguana being capable of producing 40 to 70 eggs a year and the average hatch rate being more than 80 percent, according to the director.
The Department of Agriculture said that green iguanas do not usually attack if unprovoked and urged people who spot the reptiles not to panic but to report the location to the county government by calling 1999. Upon receiving such calls, trained personnel are dispatched, the department added.
People who try to catch the reptiles themselves are advised to watch out for their tails, which they use to attack, and to avoid being bitten, the department said. It went on to advise that those who catch green iguanas measuring 20 centimeters in length should bring them to Pingtung County Bureau of Fire and Emergency Service’s Pingtung and Chaojhou branches to exchange them for agricultural produce.
As green iguanas have been designated as invasive species harmful to the ecological environment and the safety of humans and livestock by the Council of Agriculture, people who keep them as pets must register with the country government before Nov. 30 or face a fine of between NT$10,000 (US$333) and NT$50,000.
(Pingtung County Government photo)