August 29, 2012
While you and your kids may be playing “Where’s Waldo,” we at the Division of Plant Industry are playing “Where’s Twiggy.” Twiggy is our beautiful red kneed tarantula who happens to be an escape artist. We have ordered the Amber Alert for arthropods and placed Missing fliers around the building, but to no avail. We care about Twiggy and hope we’ll find her soon. However, if she did escape the building it is not cause for panic. In general, spiders including tarantulas are beneficial arthropods, and fortunately, Twiggy is not an invasive species, she is classified as an exotic pet. However, this presents a good opportunity to discuss the difference between exotic and invasive exotics animals and the ways invasive exotic pets have been introduced into Florida. For instance, the red rump tarantula is classified as an invasive exotic because it was released by an irresponsible pet owner and has now become established in Florida. Dr. G.B. Edwards, DPI’s resident internationally recognized spider expert warns of the threat released exotic pets create for the existence of native animals and plants in Florida. He offers simple alternatives to releasing exotic pets into the environment. His advice Includes returning exotic pets to local pet stores or finding them a good home – for a look at a giant red rump tarantula and more information from Dr. Edwards, check out this video http://bit.ly/Ny9DNE.
You may be asking yourself what is the difference between native, exotic and invasive exotic pets, species, or pests. First we must define what a native species is. Native species are animals or other organisms that were here prior to European colonization in the early 16th century.
Exotic species are not native to Florida and are typically introduced by human activity. They are brought in intentionally, accidentally, as hitchhikers that arrive at airport, seaports or through the mail. And please, Don’t Pack a Pest – http://bit.ly/NCFlJz. Florida’s original European settlers brought plants and animals from their homelands including wheat, oranges, cattle and horses. Species have always moved around the globe, and the majority are not problematic. It is today’s unprecedented volume of global trade and travel that provides an opportunity for species to invade. One third of all plant species in Florida are now exotic.
Invasive exotic species are not constrained by the natural factors that existed in their native habitats, namely other native species, diseases, and predators. The main concern Florida faces is the rapid growth and spread of invasive species. This rapid growth has the potential of altering what remains of Florida’s natural areas, resulting in economic or environmental harm or harm to human health and well being. The good news is that most exotic species are not invasive. The main concern is with invasive exotic species.
We will keep you posted on the search for Twiggy via our Facebook and Twiiter. Look for live updates until we find her.
Remember you can help stop the spread of invasive exotic species in Florida. Be responsible and be careful with your exotic pets.