Burmese pythons may carry a fascination for Floridians, but due to the state’s historically under-regulated trade laws of exotic reptiles, an overabundance of them is destroying the state’s ecosystem, according the New York Times.
In April, biologists captured the largest wild python in Florida to date― a 17 foot 7 inch female weighing in at 164 pounds. The python was implanted with four tracking chips and set free once more in the Everglades National Park in order to study her behavior. This week, after watching her movements for 38 days, scientists recaptured and euthanized her―albeit none too soon as she was carrying 87 eggs inside her.
This python is part of a larger ongoing study conducted by the United States Geological Survey, which has been tracking a sharp increase of python spreading and breeding within the state. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study found steep declines in formerly common mammals in the Everglades National Park, which are linked to the proliferation of Burmese pythons over the last 11 years. Animals whose populations have declined the most dramatically are often found in the bellies of captured pythons and include raccoons and opossums. But with that kind of muscle power, these snakes can and have devoured whole deer and alligators.
As Kenneth Krysko of the Florida Museum of Natural History told BBC.com, "A 17-and-a-half-foot snake could eat anything it wants.”
USGS Director Marcia McNutt believes the problem is at a level that demands immediate remedy. In the survey, she states, "Pythons are wreaking havoc on one of America's most beautiful, treasured and naturally bountiful ecosystems. Right now, the only hope to halt further python invasion into new areas is swift, decisive and deliberate human action."
Everglades National Park superintendent Dan Kimball added, "We will continue to enhance our efforts to control and manage the non-native python and to better understand the impacts on the Park. No incidents involving visitor safety and pythons have occurred in the Park.”
In an effort to curtail their presence in the state, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in January of this year banned the importation and interstate transportation of Burmese pythons, in addition to three other breeds of injurious snakes that threaten the Everglades ecosystem.
PBS.com reports the mighty snakes first became popular in Florida due to a demand for exotic pets. According to BBC reports, one of those "pets" was discovered in 2009―a 400 pound python named Delilah was found caged in a Florida resident’s private home and removed.
Do you think this problem is a reflection of typical arrogance on the part of people to want to own exotic and potentially lethal pets? Or are some seemingly wild animals appropriate for domestication?
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A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and medical writer. In addition to reporting the weekend news on TakePart, she volunteers as a webeditor for locally-based nonprofits and works as a freelance feature writer for TimeOutLA.com. Email Andri | @andritweets | TakePart.com