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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 9, 2002

Iguanas making themselves at home on O'ahu

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

A state agriculture official yesterday acknowledged that populations of iguanas have established themselves in several communities on O'ahu.

Officials at the Department of Agriculture show off an 18-inch long iguana caught last week in a back yard in Waipahu. On the right is a larger iguana that was caught in Wai'anae several weeks ago.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

The fifth iguana in five months was found last week and because of the varying sizes and areas where they were found, state experts said they believe iguanas are here to stay.

"If we could we would like to try and eradicate them, but I don't think it's possible," said Lisa Nakayama, land animal specialist with the Department of Agriculture. "We can probably control the populations, but we need people to call us when they have a sighting or turn in any illegal ones."

The reptiles are native to central Mexico through South America and can grow up to six feet long. It is illegal to possess or transport iguanas in Hawai'i, and anyone caught with the reptile faces a fine of up to $200,000 and three years in prison.

On Friday morning a Waipahu resident reported a "large lizard" resting on a papaya tree in his back yard on Ho'ae'ae Street. Nakayama said she went to the home that afternoon and found the iguana still in the tree.

State officials say it looks like iguanas are here to stay.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

Because of its bright green skin and small size — about 18 inches long — Nakayama estimated that the iguana was less than a year old. Agriculture officials said they fear this iguana may have dozens of brothers and sisters crawling around.

"Because they can lay up to 36 eggs per clutch, there is a possibility that he might be part of a clutch," Nakayama said. "Or he might have been someone's pet that had gotten loose."

Iguanas are vegetarians and have been found primarily in Windward O'ahu, where there is ample food. Last month, however, a large iguana was found in a Wai'anae back yard and another was recovered in a crowded residential area in Waipahu.

Add to that fertilized eggs that have been found in Waimanalo and a female iguana that was caught and later produced eggs, Nakayama said there is no doubt the reptile is established here.

She said there have been reports of iguanas on the Big Island, but none has been captured yet.

Agriculture officials said iguanas can threaten native vegetation and birds. Iguanas have been known to feed on eggs, she said.

They also can be dangerous if confronted by humans, particularly children.

Anyone with information on illegal animals is asked to call the department's hotline at 586-PEST (7378). Owners of illegal pets can also turn the animals in under the department's amnesty program and avoid a penalty.