Salvator merianae is established in Florida as well.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources announced earlier this month that the Argentine black and white tegu (Salvator merianae) has been found in the wild in the state.
John Jensen with Georgia DNR announced on the GeorgiaWildlife YouTube page that the DNR believes the large lizard has become established in Georgia’s eastern Toombs and western Tattnall counties.
The DNR is trying to remove them from the wild because of the negative impact they have on native species, particularly the state’s gopher tortoises, which are a protected species. The large lizards are burrowers, Jensen said, and in addition to digging their own burrows, Jensen said that they also invade gopher tortoise burrows, displacing these endangered chelonians.
The Georgia DNR is encouraging citizens to report any sightings by calling 478-994-1438 or visiting www.gainvasives.org/tegus. This enables the DNR to focus their trapping efforts where they are sighted so they can better remove these reptiles from the wild. The DNR is also asking those who no longer wish to keep these reptiles as pets to find a reptile rescue that will take it in and redone it and not release it into the wild.
The Argentine black and white tegu is popular with expert reptile keepers. They are not for beginners. These lizards grow about 2 1/2 to 4 feet in length and can live up to 20 years. They are native to Central and South America and look like monitor lizards. Although not overly aggressive, tegus do have sharp teeth and strong jaws and claws.