Rangers trap free-roaming exotic iguanas

Rangers trap free-roaming exotic iguanas
Wildlife officials cage captured iguanas at a wildlife sanctuary on Tuesday. (Photo: Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation)

Wildlife officials have caught 163 free-roaming green iguanas nationwide in a drive to control their population, while 260 people in 61 provinces report having a total of 3,667 of the exotic reptiles as pets, according to the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.

Director-general Athapol Charoenchansa said on Tuesday that of the 163 captured iguanas, 134 were found on Khao Phraya Doen Dong mountain in Lop Buri province and six in the Kham Chanod forest of Udon Thani. Only one was caught in Bangkok.

Efforts to catch free-roaming iguanas, large arboreal lizards native to tropical America, started on Thursday last week after sightings of many free-roaming iguanas in Lop Buri province and reports of them raiding farm crops. There was also concern about their ecological impact.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Patcharawat Wongsuwan ordered the department to act quickly to resolve the problem.

The captured iguanas would be kept at local wildlife sanctuaries, Mr Athapol said.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has banned their importation and people who have them as pets were asked to report their possession to officials surveying the iguana population. 

Smugglers were liable to up to 10 years imprisonment and/or fine of one million baht, Mr Athapol said.

So far, he said, 260 people had reported having 3,667 American iguanas in 61 provinces.

Chon Buri province had the most iguanas, 982 with 14 owners, followed by Khon Kaen with 446 iguanas with 10 owners and Bangkok with 287 iguanas and 45 owners.

The common iguana – a herbivore that can weigh up to 4 kilogrammes and grow to more than 40 centimetres in length. (Photo: Wikispecies)