By Wynne Parry
Florida is now officially the world capital for invasive and potentially invasive reptiles and amphibians, according to a 20-year study verifying that 56 non-native species of these animals have become established in the sunshine state.
The accommodating climate — which can suit not only tropical and subtropical species, but those adapted to colder climes —is an element in the problem, according to Kenneth Krysko, the lead researcher and a senior biological scientist at the Florida Museum of Natural History, the University of Florida.
But he and the other researchers put the bulk of the blame on the pet trade, which they say is responsible for the vast majority of introductions, and impotent laws meant to prevent the release of non-natives. [Image Gallery: Invasive Species\
It's impossible to have this many non-native species establishing themselves without consequences, Krysko said.
"To think we are not going to have any problem, it doesn't make any sense — we already know we have a problem with some of the few species we have studied, and sometimes it takes decades to even determine we have a problem with a certain species," he said.
One of the most prominent of these new residents is the Burmese python, which appears to be a refugee of the pet trade. Officials worry they pose a threat to humans, as well as to native, endangered species, which turn up in the pythons' stomachs.
According to the researchers' list, the Burmese is one of six python species that have been introduced to Florida, all by the pet trade, and one of two that has become established, meaning it has survived and reproduced in its new habitat. More....