South Florida Invaders

Everglades National Park

Descriptive Transcript

Description Narrator: South Florida Invaders.

Ranger Larry: My name is Larry Perez, and I'm a ranger here at Everglades National Park, and we're standing right now at the very border of Everglades. Off to our right-hand side, we've got a fairly large stand of Pine Rockland that marcates the northern border of the park, whereas down south here we've got a canal area, and this canal area sits right alongside the boundary line.

This is important for the topic of discussion today, as we talk about invasive species. As we know, typically invasive species, biological invasions, are what we call perimeter effects, meaning they invade areas from outside. And so typically, we'll find that areas like this canal are perfect avenues, highways for introduction of all sorts of different taxa, non-native taxa, into these islands that we've preserved as National Parks.

Description Narrator: Signs next to Ranger Larry read: United States Department of the Interior. Boundary Line. National Park Service. And, Everglades National Park. Hunting, Firearms, Air Boats, Motorized Vehicles Prohibited.

Ranger Larry: As we've seen, invasive species and the problems they cause in the ecosystem are a real concern for Everglades National Park. But the problem doesn't necessarily stop at our borders. Instead, as much as we'd like them to, invasive species scarcely respect the political boundaries we lay out on the landscape. So, managing this problem in South Florida really mandates that we work across agency lines.

Description Narrator: Everglades CISMA logo contains a large letter E, for Everglades, surrounded by silhouettes of animals. Everglades Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area.

Ranger Larry: Now National Park Service works in concert in the Everglades Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area, an agreement that allows us to pool our resources and our expertise, and coordinate our efforts alongside other federal agencies, other state agencies, NGOs, universities, and tribal governments to really bring this fight to the forefront and keep ecosystems like those here in Everglades National Park healthy and free from invasive species.

Managers currently, right now are thinking that we're tracking about 350 species. That's plants and animals that have either proven themselves already or shown the potential to become invasive species just south of Lake Okeechobee, 350 species.

Description Narrator: Footage of invasive fish, plants, snakes, and ants. Scrolling text:

Brown Hoplo, Walking Catfish, African Jewelfish, Blue Tilapia, Lion Fish, Butterfly Peacock Bass, Asian Swamp Eel, Pike Killifish, Mayan Cichlid, Green Mussel, Island Apple Snail, Sacred Ibis, European Starling, Monk Parakeet, Common Myna, Caiman, Burmese Python, African Rock Python, Green Anaconda, Nile Monitor, Northern Curly-tailed Lizard, Veiled Chameleon, Brown Basilisk, Black & White Tegu, Tokay Gecko, Cuban Anole, Green Iguana, Cuban Treefrog, Cane Toad, Bufo Toad, Brazilian Pepper, Melaleuca, Old World Climbing Fern, Australian Pine, Kudzu, Torpedo Grass, Air Potato, Water Hyacinth, Red Imported Fire Ant, Mediterranean Fruit Fly, Red Palm Mite, Mexican Bromeliad Weevil, etc…

Ranger Larry: And the interesting thing about that number is that it never decreases. Instead, it always augments. Every single year we get one or two new organisms in our ecosystem that we then have to account for indefinitely. Know that 350 species that we find down here, and that we monitor down here, we've got a pretty abysmal track record for those that we've been able to eradicate. Once an invasive species becomes established, it's incredibly difficult to physically remove them permanently from the ecosystem.

We have a handful of success stories, but even those we've been able to eradicate need constant monitoring after the fact. And so that number that 350 continues to increase year after year. It's a treadmill that never really stops running, and we're just trying to keep pace with it.

Invasives in general in the country, there are certain definite hot spots. South Texas is one, Southern California's one, Hawaii, of course is a big one, and South Florida is as well. And it's for a variety of reasons. Most notably, our beautiful climate year-round keeps things pretty temperate and allows for a lot of different organisms to find a suitable home here.

In addition to that, this is also a huge hub of commerce, and of course, our global traffic in all sorts of organisms, both live and dead, allow us or provide, I should say, a variety of different pathways for these organisms to arrive here and establish in the first place.

South Florida is home to approximately 7 million people, and that presents tremendous problems in some ways. By definition, that means there are 7 million potential vectors for new biological invasions to occur in South Florida. But at the same time, those 7 million people also present us with a pretty unique resource, 14 million eyes and ears that are constantly patrolling the landscape.

That could be our first line of defense on finding and reporting new invasives. I encourage everyone as they go about their play in the natural world, whether they're hunting, they’re fishing, they’re biking, they’re birdwatching, or just relaxing on the beach to keep a wary eye open. And if they see something out of the ordinary, report what they see. We have a few reporting avenues people can use: 1-888-Ivegot1, or online at Filing a report early and easy is like making a call to 911. It sets into motion a team of emergency responders that can get out on the landscape, assess the situation, and take management action, if necessary, to stop these populations before they become permanent problems in South Florida.

Description Narrator: Don’t Let It Loose! logo, with illustrations of a frog, snake, fish, and lizard. Be a Responsible Pet Owner.

Ranger Larry: Learn as much as you can before you buy, before you become a pet owner, before you buy your nursery plants, and once you become one of those owners, understand how and why it's important to become a responsible steward to those plants and animals. Never, never, never release your animals in the wild. It's not healthy for them. It's not good, potentially, for the environment, and it's illegal. Remember, don't let it loose.


Video featuring Ranger Larry Perez talking about invasive species in South Florida (4 min. with closed-captions).


4 minutes, 26 seconds


NPS video by Jennifer Brown

Date Created


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