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Ishigaki Island site of research on Iguanas

Date Posted: 2009-01-23

Iguanas are native to North America, but they’re alive and well on Ishigaki Island on the southern tip of Okinawa Prefecture.

Nobody seems to know how the iguanas made their way to Ishigaki’s northern area, but they have, and they’re multiplying. The iguanas are enough of an ecological concern that the Ministry of Environment has begun researching the iguanas. On the study’s first day last Friday, researchers spotted three iguana and captured one. The researchers say the iguana was 90cm long and had ver sharp nails.

“It looks like there are a lot of iguanas living on Ishigaki Island,” says one researcher, “and it will have a big influence on other animals in the ecosystem.” The Ministry of Environment says it will keep people on the study through March, both looking for the animals and talking to the residents who all say they’ve seen the creatures.

Residents say they think the first iguanas were brought to Ishigaki as a home pet, but then escaped and the owners couldn’t find them. They theorize the iguanas became wild, and say they’ve been seeing the iguana for the past 15 years.

Iguanas breed in April and May, then venture to the beach to lay eggs. Iguanas eat inspects and lots of green leaves, causing researchers to worry Ishigaki Island’s forest environment could be affected. The iguana grow to 2m in length, and specialists say the iguana can inflict vicious bites with their teeth. The Ministry of Environment says it will develop some proper response to dealing with the iguana.

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