Importance of Natural Resources

The Lizard Destroying the Florida Everglades


(boat motor running) – [Wes] He’s comin’ at ya. Florida gators aren’t afraid of much. They’re certainly not afraid of me. But we’re here to protect them from something they should be scared of. He definitely isn’t happy to see us. A sneaky little lizard from Argentina. I’m Wes Larson, a wildlife
biologist and lover of the outdoors for as
long as I can remember. I’m traveling the country to find the next generation of conservationists. The people on the front lines of the fight to understand our planet and protect the animals we share it with. (boat motor starting up) (boat motor running) My first stop takes me all the way down to the southern wilds of Florida also known as the Everglades. They’re huge, hot, and home to one of the fiercest
predators on the planet: The American alligator. These researchers from
the University of Florida have taken me deep into the swamp to survey the local gator population. – [Researcher] Well, we got a gator. – Cool. Wow, let’s see, gosh. I just gotta say, ever since I was a kid, I fantasized about coming to Florida and meeting alligators up close. Alligators are at the
top of the food chain. Crucial to maintaining the ecological balance of the Everglades. But despite this dominance,
alligators are under threat from a foreign invader
that no one saw coming: The Argentine black and white tegu. Facing that threat head on are UF researchers Jenna Cole and Sarah Cooke. – How’s it goin’? – Hey, what’s up? – I’m Wes. – I’m Jenna, nice to meet ya. – Nice to meet you, too. (car doors closing) – [Wes] So we are out here
lookin’ for invasive reptiles. – Yes. – [Jenna] So we are gonna be looking for the Argentine black and white tegu. They are just a huge problem,
preying on our native species. – [Wes] Tegu populations
have exploded in recent years, so Jenna and Sarah are painstakingly trapping and removing them one by one. So, how many traps are
we gonna be checking? – [Jenna] So, we’ve got 160 traps out here. – [Wes] A long way. – [Jenna ] Yeah, it’s a
pretty extensive trap line. – [Wes] One hundred and sixty traps spread over miles of uninhabited marshland. Where do you even begin? Well, you start at trap number one. So, our first trap of the day. – Yep, this will be the first one. And it looks like we’ve got something. – Oh, cool. That is so crazy; he’s biting at the trap. Kind of a scary little predator. Like a little dinosaur. – [Jenna] Yeah, essentially
they are little dinosaurs. – Uh-huh, and all you had in this trap to bait ’em in was a chicken egg? – Yep, just a single chicken egg. So, if could imagine a whole
nest of alligator eggs. (melancholy guitar music) – I mean, he just looks
like a little egg eater. But it’s not only
alligators that are at risk. Tegus will eat just about anything. – [Sarah] The ground
nesting birds, the turtles, snakes—all of those
animals are potential prey for these large lizards. – [Wes] A single tegu
can consume an entire nest of eggs in one sitting,
so we don’t take any chances. It’s straight into the bag for removal. So, I’m bagging my first tegu here. There we go. – [Sarah] You got it. (trap rattling) (laughter) – [Jenna] Up and down like. – Up and down. – [Jenna] Yeah. – There we go. – [Sarah] Voila. – [Wes] Cool. – Tah-dah. – [Wes] One down.
– [Jenna] Alright. Let’s catch 160 more. – [Jenna] Right? – We have to be very conscious of where we’re holding the bag ’cause they can actually bite you through the bag. – [Sarah] Definitely. – [Wes] You’ve been bit through the bag before. – Yes.
– [Wes] Ok, cool. – You also have to watch
if you set the bag down, they can run away in the bag. – Yes. – Oh, really? – So if you ever have to
set it down on the ground, we’ll step on the bag
while we’re doing whatever. – [Wes] You just see a bag … – [Sarah] Oh yeah, the bag just hops away. (laughter) – [Wes] That’s crazy. The farther we go, the more apparent it is just how many tegus are
crawling around out here. Man, another one down. Oh, he’s excited. – [Jenna] Got another one, guys. – [Wes] Oh, we got another one. – [Sarah] Awesome, grumpy one. – Yeah, I can’t believe how
many there are out here. There’s a ton. – [Jenna] There is a full
breeding population of them. – [Wes] Saving the Everglades,
one tegu at a time. – [Sarah] One tegu at a time. – [Wes] This is the end of
the line for these tegus. Each one that Jenna and her team captures is brought back to the lab and euthanized. And that’s tough for a
reptile-lover like Jenna. – You really have to
look at a big picture. I like tegus, and it’s unfortunate that there is no alternative. But it’s not just that we are
removing them, and that’s it. We are using them to learn
more about the species, so that we can mitigate and prevent them from causing more terrible damage than what’s going on already. (ominous guitar music) – [Wes] Yeah, that’s not a small one, huh? – No, he’s not a small one. – A couple hundred yards from where we just caught a tegu in this little canal there’s a pretty big alligator
just kinda hanging out. So it shows that they really
are occupying the same space. It’s not impossible to
imagine a nest around here. – [Jenna] Oh, he’s coming up. – [Wes] Oh, he’s, yeah. – [Jenna] Heh-heh-heh. – Wow. We caught a number of
tegus today out here. They’re from Argentina, originally. So, how did they get to Florida? – The general consensus
on how the tegus got here is through the pet trade. They were either released or
escaped into the ecosystem. They’re very small and very cute when they are first
sold and first hatched. And as the grow people tend to realize that they may be in for a lot
more than they bargained for. – And then, in the middle of the swamp, we come across one very special tegu. So we’ve got a tegu here
that has a transmitter on it. So, I believe, that means that we actually get to pull him out after we bag him, and I actually get to get my hands on him. That’s right, right? – Yep, we’re gonna go
ahead and get him out. – [Wes] In this vast wilderness, the research team has transmitters on only six tegus, so it’s
a real stroke of luck that we found this one. – [Cameraman] What do you think, Wes? – Pretty cool. – Yeah, I was gonna say, when they squirm, you don’t grab the tail. – Yeah. And that’s just ’cause it can detach? – Yeah, he’ll drop it. – I can definitely tell that
there’s some real strength. We’ve obviously got a tegu out of the trap that we’re handling, so why is it that we’re able to pull this one out? – We are actually following him around and learning more about where he lives and what he’s doing out here, so that we can learn more ways to effectively trap and remove them from
this Everglades system. – He’s like a little spy for you guys? – Yeah, so he’s like a double agent. – [Wes] It’s hard to
believe that something as small as releasing some pet lizards can threaten the health
of an entire ecosystem. My time here has proven
to me just how delicate that balance can be. The scientists we met from UF are fighting a daily battle to right
some of our wrongs. It’s hot, humid and frustrating work, but these biologists care
deeply about native species and tagging along helped me understand just how important their battle is. (frogs croaking)


Reader Comments

  1. Given the influx of exotic species into Florida is trying to wipe them out the right answer? Think about it for a second. These things are likely not only impacting native wildlife they may well also be acting as predators for iguanas and their eggs as well as baby pythons. Their presence might also limit the spread of monitor lizards. Beyond that tegus I'm sure fall prey to birds, pythons and alligators. Kill it because its novel is not a useful mindset. We need to think bigger and more holistically.

  2. When will we decide as a society to reform the exotic pet trade in the US? Florida is the poster child, but invasive reptiles are out there all across the US. Red-eared sliders alone are endangering dozens of species, including endemic populations of other turtle species. Here in PA they're out-competing the smaller and less-aggressive yellow-eared sliders. You can get one for about $10, but they'll end up the size of a dinner plate and need hundreds of gallons of water to live in. Which is why they get dumped in rivers and lakes.

  3. Those kids movies/cartoons where release your pet into the wild seems like a good thing never show up the bad ending where the entire ecosystem is destroyed by that "adorable" pet.

  4. This is how you ACTUALLY save nature. Going out and doung stuff like this, taking out invasive species from ecosystems, going and trying to eliminate poaching from the world. That is how you really save endangered species.
    Sorry but just knowing that a species is in danger and that it exists does not really help it if nothing is done in the end. The reality of situations like poaching is that in a perfect world, everyone would be aware of the problem, but this world is imperfect, and there is no way you can really make everyone aware in the world.
    With there being billions of people and the numbers still growing exponentially it isnt a realistic goal.
    You wanna help, then get out there and actually tackle the problem’s source

    Edited for spelling errors and paragraphs so it wasnt a text wall.

  5. Love our new series, Mission Wild? For a limited time, you can get our special Mission Wild tee-shirt at our new merch shop! Check it out: https://greatbig.is/2OMTY87 🐊

  6. This is why people HAVE to research before getting a pet!! If you can’t commit to it don’t buy it. Florida has Tegus, Tokays, and Chameleons invading their ecosystem. Research before you buy and give to another owner or rescue if you can no longer take care! Do not release!!

  7. Tegus have invaded the USA and are harming the ecosystem and native species in unthinkable ways – nothing new about that. Europeans have already done it long ago.

  8. Last time I was down in Florida visiting the space centre, I saw loads to alligators by the road. How are they hurting the alligator population?

  9. I love Tegus so much so it sucks they have to be put down they're beautiful animals. But I'm glad to see people are out there making a difference and help our ecosystem!

  10. It's a real shame they have to be euthanized. Tegu are one of very few lizards that can form emotional bonds with humans.

  11. I enjoy Great Big Story but so often their videos lack an impactful ending. For such an important topic, that impactful ending is paramount.

  12. People just don’t realize the effects their pet has on the environment. Just cuz it’s the wild, doesn’t mean it’s their home

  13. As a proud tegu owner, I dislike trapping of any animal born into an environment, then killed because we called it a threat.Mine knows his name, uses a litter pan half filled with water in the bathroom and crawls into his enclosure when he is ready to go to sleep, very intelligent animals, very sad story.

  14. I hope you do an episode on Lion Fish. They're a major problem here in FL and they were introduced through the pet trade too.

  15. I swear y’all read my mind, I’ve been watching tons of videos about animals, and now you made an animal series. I love these vids, keep it up!

  16. Nothing good comes from owning reptiles. No one will date you, the Everglades will be destroyed, and your house will start to smell. Just get a dog.

  17. Sorry but our Earth is not a planet wizzing through an infinite vacuum called outer space!! Water in mass always seeks and maintains its level proving that the Atlantic and Pacific oceans are blatently misdescribed on every model globe in existence because gravity is a construct of magic being intangible as it has never been directly detected itself on the Earth because it lacks both presence and substance which completely renders it undetectable itself relegating it to a 500+ year old theory!! Nothing can curve water in mass for thousands of miles around the outside surface of anything including a giant spherical spinning water world!!! Water in mass always seeks and maintains its level!!! Wake up and wake up now!! Research the Flat Earth topic now!!!!

  18. The Nile Monitor has also made an appearance in the Everglades. Maybe the Tegu is a close enough relative to crossbreed into another hybrid species.

  19. I understand how hard is for them to capture and kill this animals, because it's not tegus' fault, they're paying for a market we have to prohibit everywhere: exotic pets! Only the catchers win in this market, because we harm local populations, native species, entire ecosistems.
    If you or your children ask for a cute animal just because you watch it on TV or elsewhere, please say no, you're just making this problem bigger, not just in the Everglades, everywhere!
    Here in mexican coasts we have a problem with Lion Fish, at least what people is doing is using it for food, sad to know this tegus only die :c

  20. So many of them but few places sell them so why not sell them and get them a place where they can survive unlike the hatchlings that sometimes don’t make it in captivity

  21. I understand they have to protect the animals that are already there, but it still pisses me off that they are killing the Tegus after.

  22. Don't think of the Tegus as monsters, they make great pets and can become very tame, it's just that the idiots that release them in the wild were not prepared to take care of one and didn't know what they are doing. I think what the researchers are doing is necessary, but don't antagonize the tegus, they're just trying to survive.

  23. Great video! I am from Argentina and I work in a nature reserve where we work with tegus in the wildlife ( over here we call them,lagarto overo). I can tell why they still survive in the Everglades. The reserve where I work is kind of a.swamp and they survive quite well the floods. What a pity people had sent them.to places they do not belong. If you need more info about it's behaviour in its place of origin,just let me.know

  24. As a person who loves reptiles and wants a Argentine B&W Tegu eventually, I have to say that it isn't the responsible and dedicated reptile hobbyists at fault here. Irresponsible people release all kinds of animals into the wild that are invasive, not just reptiles.
    It is the fault of people who have no knowledge or responsibility of and for their pets that are the problem. Yes, sometimes a tegu may escape, but I bet it is the fault of the irresponsible pet owner that so many tegus are released into the wild. Those people I wouldn't class as real reptile hobbyists. Real reptile hobbyists know to look after their pets and take all the precautions. Usually reptile keepers know to use locks on their cages to secure them. It's sad that the tegus have to die, but I understand why. But please don't demonise the tegus. They are just animals who are trying to survive. If you have the dedication, they make great pets too.

  25. Really interesting series. People put those animals into that setting and now they have to die for it…can't they be sent to Argentina who already deals with this animals? Sucks.

  26. They would make for some cool boots and it would bring a rise in the hunt for those lizards hopefully eliminating them.

  27. Crack down harder on people releasing their pets into the wild, and educating people more about what having a pet tegu involves!! Culling the tegus is a reactive, punitive measure, every time we try and interfere with an eco system in any way, it blows up in our face. There are immeasurable examples of this.

  28. Since the legalization of Marijuana, possibly many hundreds of dogs will be out of work and forced into retirement. Why not train dogs to sniff out the invasive creatures and get rid of them. Dogs are very capable of handling the job

  29. I have a question, why does the video say 'an Argentinian lizard' when the tegu being tracked and a number in the cages are not from Argentina. You're making the same mistake as the owners who released them. That's a Colombian Gold Tegu, it has a different diet (carnivore rather than omnivore), doesn't thrive as well in cold areas, not as big and also much more aggressive. It also doesn't hibernate, which the Argentine does.

    You can tell this by patterns, colour and the scales on the side of the nose.

    I know the Argentine Black and White tegu also has populations in Florida, but it is not good for conservation information gathering if you think that they are the same thing. So when you're catching a bunch of these in December and telling the other parts of Florida to go all year round, they might thing populations have reduced because their Argentine population has all gone underground to sleep for a few months.

  30. Claim to love animals and then they treat a beautiful Tegu like this. No, you don't shake the cage and slam his head into the sides to get him out, you put your hand in and take him out. Anyone with minimal competency can avoid the bite, and the bit isn't even that bad, it would be zero problem with work gloves on. Then they kill them, makes me sick. "Jenna" doesn't love reptiles or she wouldn't do such a horrible thing. There are people who ACTUALLY love reptiles who catch them and keep them alive, I got mine from one of those people. Why the hell do you kill them? Send them back to Argentina, sell them (out of Florida) as pets, start a Go Fund Me to keep them alive in an enclosure. Lastly, nature is nature… if the Tegu is a better predator than the Animals of the everglades, then they win. Guess who else is invasive in Florida? Humans. I hope these scumbags "accidentally" get shot by a hunter, or get killed by a crocodile they are trying to save.

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