Associated Press; October 1997

Iguanas Creeping Into Italy

ROME - Steven Spielberg brought dinosaurs to life in movies like "Jurassic Park" and "The Lost World." He also may have started an iguana invasion in Italy.

The World Wildlife Fund said Monday that thousands of the reptiles are being imported into Italy to satisfy movie fans who want a "dinosaur" of their own. The problem is that iguanas, like all pets, grow up. And when they do, they can reach 3 feet in length - too big for most owners.

"Iguanas remind people of little dinosaurs. But people who buy them as pets soon realize they are difficult and expensive to look after," said Cristina Maceroni, a World Wildlife Fund spokeswoman in Rome.

The World Wildlife Fund says Italy imported more than 3,000 iguanas legally in the first half of 1997. It estimates another 1,000 were smuggled in. That compares with 5,000 iguanas for the entire previous decade.

"The demand for iguanas is growing at an alarming rate," Maceroni said. "We believe this is in part due to the success of 'Jurassic Park'. The same thing happened with Dalmatian dogs following the release of Disney's '101 Dalmatians'."