What is it?
The Argentine black and white tegu is a large lizard native to South America. This species was brought to Florida, where it was kept and sold as a pet. When these pets escaped into the wild and established populations in central and south Florida, they became an invasive species.1,2
The Argentine black and white tegu can reach four to five feet in length and is characterized by gray and black stipes and a thick forked tongue.2 Their broad heads and necks distinguish them from the Nile monitor, another invasive lizard in Florida.2,3
Why is it a threat?
The tegu has the potential to harm native Florida wildlife. Tegus eat the buried eggs of alligators and turtles and thus pose a risk to other animals that bury their eggs, such as American crocodiles, gopher tortoises, and sea turtles. These threatened and endangered species could suffer if tegu populations keep growing and expanding.¹ Tegus also have the potential to damage agricultural and food industries.2
What’s being done?
UF/IFAS researchers now think that tegu populations may have surpassed the “containment” stage of invasive species response and now require long-term management. However, the university and various government agencies are working to halt future tegu expansion.2
If you see a tegu in your area, report it immediately by calling 1-888-IveGot1 (1-888-483-4681) for live animals or by going to the Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System website.#
You can find photos of tegus and more information on the UF/IFAS Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation website.
- Rebecca G. Harvey and Frank J. Mazzotti, The Argentine Black and White Tegu in South Florida: Population Growth, Spread, and Containment, WEC360, Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 2015, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw405
- Steve Johnson and Monica McGarrity, Florida Invader: Tegu Lizard, WEC295, Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 2014, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw340
- Frank J. Mazzotti and Rebecca G. Harvey, The Invasion of Exotic Reptiles and Amphibians in Florida, WEC320, Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 2015, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw365
Photo by noumae/iStock/Thinkstock