The city of Orlando has recently been visited by a unique lizard species that local residents have given the name “Godzilla.” In a recent Facebook video, an enormous lizard was seen inside a home in Apopka, a city outside of Orlando. You can see the lizard climb the window screen from various angles throughout the 40-second video, even crossing the window’s ledge. As the video ends, the animal slams to the ground after climbing several inches up the screen before falling. So what exactly is this giant lizard? Have you ever wondered whether this lizard might actually be harming Florida’s natural habitat?
Here’s what you need to know about this mysterious lizard species, how it’s damaging Florida’s natural habitat, and what you should do if you see one in the wild.
Florida’s “Godzilla” Lizard: What Is It?
Since being posted on Facebook, the video has received tons of attention. In the beginning, many commenters claimed that the lizard was actually a tegu lizard. However, that happened to be a case of mistaken identity. Most of the speculation around the lizard is that it is either a male Nile monitor, or possibly a male black-throated monitor.
The male Nile monitor is the largest lizard species in Africa, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). The reptiles can grow to 6.5 feet long and weigh as much as 17.8 pounds. Coming in second in size is the black-throated monitor. This is the second largest and longest monitor lizard in Africa. On average, they typically grow to be three to four feet in length.
Among reptiles, monitor lizards are among the most intelligent. In addition to remembering where their hiding places are, they can be trained to count to six as well. It is pretty common to spot Nile monitors near crocodile nesting sites because they primarily dine on crocodile eggs. As we mentioned, they can grow extremely large. As a matter of fact, the famed Komodo dragon is a species of monitor lizard. It is interesting to note that monitor lizards are very similar to snakes because their forked tongues help them detect smells. A hiss is also produced when they feel threatened. The reptiles also have weak venom that they can use when threatened.
So which parts of Florida are home to these fascinating invasive lizards? Let’s find out.
Where Are Monitor Lizards Found in Florida?
There are no native species of Nile monitor in Florida. The reptile in the video, most likely, was a pet that escaped from someone’s house. The state actually considers the Nile monitors, in particular, to be an invasive species while black-throated monitors are not. Although, they are not native. However, they are still found throughout different parts of the state. Nile monitors are still found throughout different parts of the state. Several Nile monitors have been spotted in Lee County and Palm Beach County, for example. However, they have also been spotted in Broward County as well. Scientists and researchers believe that the species has been spreading thanks to the extensive canal network of South Florida. The species is usually found near water edges, so it makes sense.
The species now lives in Florida both deliberately and unintentionally as a result of captive Nile monitors being released there. Nile monitors are able to break out of cages by pushing off the tops or tearing through screens with their sharp claws. Often, they’re released if they become difficult to handle, feed, and manage, or if they’re too sick or unfit to be sold in reptile trading. Storm damage from hurricanes can also lead to Nile monitors escaping from enclosures. But what’s the big deal if the Nile monitor is taking over parts of South Florida? Is the native habitat actually threatened by Florida’s invading lizards? Let’s find out.
Do Monitor Lizards Threaten Florida’s Habitat?
As we mentioned, Nile and black-throated monitors are not native to Florida. However, only the Nile monitor has been reported as having a more established population in South Florida.
There is no established population of black-throated monitors in Florida, so they do not currently pose a threat to Florida’s natural habitat. Nile monitors, on the other hand, may actually pose a threat to the natural habitat in South Florida. There are several ways in which it accomplishes this according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Since Nile monitors eat a wide variety of foods, it has been reported that they may have an adverse impact on native species in the state.
They eat anything from carrion to eggs to small mammals, so they compete against native species for natural resources such as food and habitat. The Nile monitor has also attacked small pets and livestock, including chickens, in areas where they are widely spread.
In addition to their eating habits, Nile monitor lizards are also bad for the integral structure of South Florida. As we mentioned above, many researchers believe that the canal systems in South Florida help these lizards spread throughout the area. This is because these lizards are known for burrowing. They will break through canal walls, create holes, and compromise the integrity of the structures. Overall, all of this may spell harm to both the native species and the overall habitat and structure of South Florida.
Therefore, many of us are left with the question: what should you do if you spot a Nile monitor in Florida?
What to Do if You See a Monitor Lizard in Florida?
Any time residents in Florida see a wild Nile or black-throated monitor outside, they are encouraged to report it. The FWC encourages this practice because it gives researchers a better understanding of where these species are spreading and how they can be curtailed. According to the FWC website, the best way to report the incident is to take a photo and note the location of where you saw the lizard. Then you can send the report over to the free IveGot1 mobile app, calling IVE-GOT1 (888-483-4681), or by reporting online at IveGot1.org.
Catching Monitors on your own is not a wise idea. There is no doubt that monitors are dangerous animals, as they have sharp claws, sharp teeth, and powerful jaws. If provoked or threatened, they are likely to defend themselves.
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