On Thursday 25th January, a Red-headed Rock Agama (Agama agama) - a small reptile originally from Africa which has become common in south Florida - was found in Grand Cayman for the first time.
The small reptile is a species of lizard from the family Agamidae found in most of sub-Saharan Africa and, due to its spectacular colouration (especially in males), it has become a popular animal in the pet trade, having been introduced to southern Florida where it has established and become extremely common. The Department of the Environment has long kept an eye out for the Red-headed Agama, which, if not removed from Cayman, has the potential to spread as much havoc as the other well-known invasive species to have hit Cayman’s shores, the green iguana.
This male was found in George Town, next to the container yard where international shipments have their first port of call in the Cayman Islands, so officials believe it is likely to have been a one-off accidental import, that none-the-less highlights the need for robust biosecurity protocols.
The DOE noted that, thanks to Dominic Jackson who alerted the Terrestrial Resources Unit upon spotting it, they were able to detect and remove the animal successfully within the hour.
“The Red-headed Agama is primarily insectivorous, but they have been known to eat small mammals, small reptiles, and vegetation such as flowers, grasses, and fruits. It behaves much like our native Curly-tailed Lizard (or Lion-lizard) and would pose a serious risk to such native reptiles through competition of resources as well as a potential vector of disease. Once established, the Agamas are much harder to control than are Green Iguanas due to their smaller size,” they advised.
If you see this lizard, or any other exotic looking animal in the wild, please contain it, if possible, and contact the DoE Terrestrial Unit immediately by WhatsApp on 925-7625 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .