Iguana found in Waimanalo renews call to turn over illegal pets

(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii Department of Agriculture)
(Image: Hawaii Department of Agriculture)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In the last decade, state crews have captured about a dozen iguanas in Hawaii.

The latest, a 5-foot-long reptile found this weekend in Waimanalo, is renewing calls for residents to be vigilant about illegal animals.

The iguana remains at the state Department of Agriculture's Plant Quarantine program, awaiting transport to its new home.

While the iguana was likely a pet, officials say there is a small but established colony in Waimanalo. "Doing research, it (the colony) came in the 1950s so they've been here for a while," said Kent Dumlao, a state outreach specialist.

The last time an iguana was turned over to the state was in 2015, when a 2-foot-long lizard was found in Kaneohe. In 2011, an 18-inch iguana was corralled in Waipahu.

If you spot an iguana, be careful. "They do scratch, they have very long claws." Dumlao said.

For years, the state has struggled to keep invasive species at bay. While some animals get carried to the islands accidentally, others are intentionally brought in.

In addition to iguanas, for example, another lizard found in Hawaii is the Cuban Night Anole.

"They're smuggled in," Dumlao said. "On the mainland you can have these as pets, you can buy them at pet stores."

Other illegal animals reported over the years include a coconut crab found scurrying around Salt Lake in 2014, and a cougar reportedly spotted in Aina Haina in 1988. The state searched for it, but never found the big cat.

And of course, there are the elusive wallaby of Kalihi Valley.

As for the Waimanalo iguana, it will soon be shipped to a university on the mainland. Dumlao said the episode should spur others to turn over their illegal pets.

"Turn it in. Do the right thing. Keep Hawaii safe. Keep everyone safe," he said.

Under the state's amnesty program, anyone can turn over an illegal pet to the state, no questions asked. Those found with an illegal animal face up to three years in jail and a fine of up to $200,000.

If you see an illegal animal, call the state's pest hotline at 643-PEST.

Copyright 2017 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.