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For Immediate Release: April 22, 2003


HONOLULU - Five illegal lizards were turned in this morning to officials at the Hawaii Department of Agriculture's Plant Quarantine Branch on Oahu. An unidentified male turned in four bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps) and one spiny-tailed agamid (Uromastyx aegyptius) under the State's Amnesty program, which provides immunity from prosecution. No information was provided other than the person said he was turning it in for a friend. All the lizards measure about a foot long.

In Hilo, a tarantula was turned in to the Panaewa Zoo, which turned it over to Hilo Plant Quarantine personnel. An unidentified woman said she found the tarantula in a car that she recently purchased. The illegal spider is being transported to Honolulu today for identification of species.

A photo opportunity of the lizards is scheduled for this afternoon between 3:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. at the Plant Quarantine Branch, 1849 Auiki Street near Sand Island. The tarantula will also be displayed if it arrives in time for the photo op.

"While it is disturbing that these illegal animals are in Hawaii," said Sandra Lee Kunimoto, Chairperson for Hawaii Board of Agriculture, "we appreciate the voluntary surrender and encourage those with knowledge of other illegal animals to help us keep alien pests from becoming established in the state."

Bearded dragons are illegal for individuals to transport or possess in Hawaii. These lizards are native to central Australia and are common in the pet trade on the mainland. They may grow up to two feet in length and their diet consists of insects, flowers, fruit and vegetable matter. Larger adults may also consume small rodents and invertebrates. Spiny-tailed agamids are relatives of the bearded dragon and are native to Northern Africa, India and Arabia.

There are about 800 different species of tarantula worldwide. Those found in North America occur in the southern and southwestern states. In general, tarantulas are venomous and can inflict a painful bite, although not usually lethal to humans.

Persons possessing illegal animals are subject to stiff penalties, including fines of up to $200,000 and up to three years in jail. Individuals with illegal pets are encouraged to voluntarily turn them in under the Amnesty Program. Anyone with information or knowledge of illegal animals in Hawaii is asked to call the department's PEST HOTLINE at 586-PEST(7378) or the Plant Quarantine Branch at 832-0566.


For more information, contact:

Janelle Saneishi
Public Information Officer
Hawaii Department of Agriculture
Phone: (808) 973-9560