Local rescue helps Florida Lizards
By Jessica Coleman
Since founding Lumpy Lizard Rescue, I have been working hard to build something that is bigger than me. My goal is for this organization to grow, to do good in the world, and to outlive me. These last couple of weeks have been incredibly exciting for us.
Not long ago, we received an email from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. It is their version of Texas Parks and Wildlife. I thought it was a spam email or an accident at first, because my rescue is located in Edna, Texas, which you may recognize as “nowhere near Florida.”
It turned out that the email was for us after all, and they were asking for our help. See, Florida has a program called the Exotic Pet Amnesty Program. Basically, to keep nonnative animals out of the ecosystem, where they often create invasive populations, Florida allows owners of exotic pets to surrender them without consequence, even if they are a species that is illegal to own in the state. The program is especially important now that Florida has made 16 popular species illegal because of the already-out-of-control invasive populations. FWC then finds rescues and homes for the animals in states where they are legal to own.
Importantly, the risk of invasive iguanas is much smaller in our part of Texas than in Florida because while we don’t have MUCH freezing weather, we do have enough that they aren’t typically able to survive in large numbers.
I happen to be pretty good with large lizards like iguanas and monitors, and I know a lot of other people who are as well, so this is a great use of my time and skills.
Basically, when I have a vacancy at Lumpy Lizard, I will look at their list of animals in need, let them know what I have space for, and the owner will pack them up nice and tidy, put them on a plane, and fly them to Texas for a new start.
We received our first "Florida Lizard" last week - a red tegu named Bonk, who got his name because he apparently liked to hit people with his tail at some point, but now he is so chill that out treasurer, who picked him up from the airport, actually thought he was dead when she got him out of his shipping crate and messaged me in a panic. But no, he is perfectly alive - just lives in a constant state of "this is fine." He is a really neat dude.
I am so, so excited about this partnership, and to be not just helping individual animals, but also doing what I can to help fragile ecosystems by keeping invasive animals out of them. Every little bit helps.
In other exciting news we have a website for me to plug at the end of these columns now! Find us at lumpylizardrescue.org, and you can follow our animals and their adventures on Facebook at facebook.com/lumpylizardrescue.