ILLEGAL IGUANA RECEIVES DEATH SENTENCE IN AMERICAN SAMOA

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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (February 9, 1999 - Samoa News)---No one seems to know how one visitor managed to crawl itself into the Territory. But one thing is for sure, the visitor is not welcome on the shores of American Samoa.

That visitor prompted a call for the House Government Operations Committee to hold a hearing regarding this five-foot-long reptile that was found in the village of Laulii and being cared for by a family.

The hearing is scheduled for Thursday and the iguana's owner has been requested to appear.

Nearby resident Tisa, owner of Tisa's Barefoot Bar, reported to the Department of Agriculture an iguana in the possession of the Laulii family, which prompted a trip by officials to investigate the matter.

Acting Director for Agriculture Peter Gurr said in a television interview that they went out to look at the reptile and to talk to the owner. They told the owner that this type of animal is illegal in the Territory.

Gurr noted that they (Agriculture) did not issue a permit to allow the reptile into American Samoa, but believed it was brought here on a boat.

"We tried to question the person who possessed the animal, but he seemed to forget which boat it was brought in on and who the owner was," said Gurr. "So at this time there has not been much cooperation from him. We might have to seek a legal opinion on it."

The iguana, according to Gurr, is to be put to sleep for health precautions, but there has been no confirmation on when that action will be taken.

Although Gurr announced this on television, the House Government Operations Committee will proceed with their hearing on Thursday, noting that there are other issues pertaining to animals that need clarification.

Tisa was also asked to come in and listen to the hearing.

By reporting the illegal visitor to the local authorities, Tisa told Samoa News yesterday that she has since received three threatening phone calls from a woman in the family.

The phones calls and verbal abuse, according to Tisa, "will not deter me from protecting our welfare and the environment. I'm not going to keep quite about issues like this that are very important to us."

As a matter of fact, the Department of Agriculture commends the businesswoman for making the report.

"They brought in a reptile that endangers and destroys our ecosystem," Tisa noted in a telephone interview yesterday from Alega. "I will take this issue all the way to the Fono (legislature)."

Tisa's statement is supported by a local environmentalist who pointed out the danger of iguana's being raised on tropical islands. "Samoa and other islands, such as Hawai‘i, have rare plants not found anywhere else and these types of reptiles are dangerous to its development."

Incidentally, when authorities found an iguana in Hawai‘i, which is also illegal in the Aloha State, authorities found a home for the reptile at a mainland zoo.

Stories from the SAMOA NEWS, American Samoa's daily newspaper, may not be republished without permission. To contact the publisher, send e-mail to

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