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African Rainbow Skinks Now Breeding in Florida – Giant Ameivas Spreading

Rainbow SkinkA breeding population of African Five-Lined or Rainbow Skinks, Trachylepis (formerly Mabuya) quinquetaeniata, has been discovered in Port St. Lucia, Florida, bringing the total number of exotic herps known to be established in the USA to 66.  The Giant or Green Ameiva, or Jungle-Runner (Ameiva ameiva), known to the state since 1954, seems to be expanding its range.

Florida’s Newest Exotic

Rainbow Skinks, which are native to a broad belt of Sub-Saharan Africa stretching from Senegal to Kenya, are the newest of Florida’s many exotic animals.  Well-known in the US pet trade, the recently discovered population seems limited to a weedy lot near a now-defunct reptile importing business.  Past reports of dead and dying skinks found on the importer’s property point towards the all-too-common source of the new arrivals. 

According to a recent (September, 2010) article published by the Center for North American Herpetology, the lizards were first collected in April of 2010 by University of Florida researchers.  Forty-six individuals, including a number of sexually mature and very young animals, were observed.

Ameivas on the Move

The Giant Ameiva (described by many as “Tegu-like” in form and action) has long been a pet trade staple, despite the fact that it is a high-strung lizard that requires a spacious enclosure if it is to thrive and breed.  However, they feel right-at-home among Florida’s fields, gardens, lots and canal banks.

Dade County has hosted a large population since 1954.  A recent survey by the Florida Fish and Game Commission (please see article below) has revealed that Giant Ameivas are also being found in increasing numbers in Broward County, Palm Beach and the Corkscrew Swamp.  Capable of tackling insects, other lizards, frogs, nestling birds and small mammals, Giant Ameivas likely represent a significant threat to native wildlife. 

Rainbow SkinkFlorida’s Giant Ameivas occur in 2 rather distinct forms, being either dark-colored or brightly-marked in green.  Males in the darker population may exceed 2 feet in length, while green individuals top out at 18 inches or so.  Biologists have yet to determine if different species or subspecies are present. 

Further Reading

Florida’s Newest Exotic: original discovery of the Rainbow Skink population.

Fish & Game Report on the Giant Ameiva

Video of a Rainbow Skink shedding.


Rainbow Skink image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Jensbn
Giant Ameiva image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Dario Sanches 


  1. avatar

    I have a ton of these lizards all around my home. my cats corner them on my patio on a regular basis. my son rescued one today and decided to keep as a pet. I know non native animals can do a lot of damage. if anyone has suggestions that dont involve killing the lizards we would willing catch them and place them somewhere in captivity or something. the are also a few other species I have yet to identify might be the dark variety mentioned here or something completely different. anyone interested in more info or studying lizard populations contact us. I live in Hollywood FL not far from the hard rock

    • avatar

      Hi Tara,

      Very interesting, thanks. there are quite a few introduced lizards in Fla. unfortunately, it’s difficult to remove smaller species once they’ve become established,. Perhaps someone in a local herpetological society might be interested, or may know of a college professor, etc doing some related work. Please see this listing of Fla herp societies and rescue organizations. You can see photos of Florida’s introduced lizards here (several look similar to the species mentioned in the article, which is not very widespread at this point).

      Please keep me posted, best, Frank

About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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