By Brenda Reyes
“Mom there is a green monster in the patio.” The loud voices of my 5-year-old and 2-year-old neighbors made me run to the patio to see what was happening next door. As startled as I was, so was their mother and my gardener, who was working on my yard that day. The “green monster” was a gigantic 4-foot green iguana who was climbing on the power and electricity pole between our houses and eating avocados from a tree.
While one might think I live in a rural area, I live less than five minutes away from the CEPD office in a suburban/urban area which is next to Ft. Buchanan, a military facility with lush vegetation. This kind of iguana is also known as Iguana iguana. Native to Central and South America, it was introduced to Puerto Rico in the 1970s as a result of pet trade. It has been threatening native biodiversity and impacting infrastructure, agriculture and human safety for the last decade. There is no management program to control this reptile that is becoming more widespread and dominant in other areas around the island as they have no natural predators. The introduction of exotic species impacts biodiversity.
In urban and suburban areas-like the one in which I live-green areas have enormous economic and aesthetic value. Having these spaces help us maintain and support overall environmental health as humans have long depended on these for recreational and commercial activity. Just like the iguanas, there is a new frog in town menacing native biodiversity: the Cuban Frog. Bigger than our native Coqui and smaller than a regular toad or frog, this species is taking over our green spaces. It was about four months ago that I started noticing that our mixed breed dog, Chocolate, was leaving small dead frogs by the side yard. While frogs are deadly for dogs, I saw Choco playing with these almost daily. On a closer inspection with my 6-year old son, we discovered this was a different kind of frog. Three weeks later an article in a local paper identified this amphibian as the new invasive species.
Like iguanas and frogs we have also seen monkeys roam near our yard. They are known to steal fruits from the trees in the houses. We also have South American macaws that fly every morning making a lot of noise. Their population has grown in the Guaynabo area for the last 13 years. While they are quite a spectacle with their bright yellow and blue feathers, they have taken over the top of palms where other native birds also make their nests.
EPA belongs to the National Invasive Species Council, a working group of 13 federal agencies designed to prevent and control invasive species. For more information of what invasive species are in your area and what is being done about them please visit http://www.invasivespecies.gov/