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The international pet trade is a booming industry in the United States and even worldwide. According to National Geographic, “A global trade in wildlife generates hundreds of billions of dollars each year, the news release added. The researchers report that during a six-year period from 2000 through 2006, the U.S. imported more than 1.5 billion live animals.” One species in particular, which has been hauled to the states, is causing quite a ruckus, the Burmese python. The estimated population of these pythons keeps growing outrageously causing it to gain the label of an invasive species that is threatening a rare ecosystem.

Author David Badger stated in his book titled “Snakes” that a Burmese python can grow a great length of up to 26 ft. long (69). Many people who decide to take up a Burmese python as a pet do not anticipate the growth rate of these unique creatures, and when they become too gigantic to provide necessary shelter for, the owner generally releases it into a nearby, suitable habitat. This is what has been occurring in Florida, more particularly, The Everglades National Park. Although it hasn’t exactly been proven to be the primary cause of the Burmese boom, many speculate that large numbers of pythons escaped during Hurricane Andrew in 1992. It is said that the severe storm caused many pet stores to become flooded and damaged which led to the animals escaping unknowingly into the surrounding wild. Florida is also a major port, which takes in non-native species daily adding to risk of any invasion.

To understand why the Burmese python is thriving in The Everglades you will need to know some brief facts about both. The Everglades is a two million acre wetland ecosystem that reaches from central Florida, near Orlando, all the way southmap.gif to Florida Bay. It boasts a large array of wildlife including multiple rare and endangered species such as; The Florida panther, West Indian Manatee, and over 350 different species of birds. It has a subtropical climate and gets very humid at times. It contains marshes, canals, grassy waterways, and wet prairies. This lovely weather and landscape provides an ideal location for a Burmese python. The Burmese python possesses tan, yellow/brown ground color with reddish to dark brown quadrangular blotches outlined in gold or cream. It is primarily found in swamps, grasslands, and rocky foot hills of Southeast Asia and the East Indies, which is its region of origin. This python is an excellent swimmer, capable of remaining under water for up to thirty minutes at a time. They are excellent hunters both on water or land, and are also great climbers. They feed on reptiles, birds, and mammals, and are mainly active at twilight and at night. Many of the snakes in Florida can be found at night by simply driving down the back roads. They usually appear on the edges of the concrete using the pavement’s heat to warm themselves. The Everglades is a more than perfect habitat for a Burmese python. With the abundance of creatures southern Florida holds the python would never starve and since it is a prestigious hunter in water and on land, the snake gets to use the Everglades unique landscape to its prime advantage.

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In the 1950’s, a couple brown tree snakesmade their way to Guam from New Guinea as stowaways on ships. The snakes ended up repopulating at a rapid rate and eventually started taking out the native bird population. These species of birds were only found in Guam, and are now endangered if not already extinct due to the invasion of the brown tree snake. Many people are afraid that this is what is going to occur in southern Florida if something isn’t done to control the python outburst. Since the python can grow up to 200 pounds within 2-4 years, it is too large for it to have any predators. Therefore, no species can naturally control their population growth. The American alligator has long prevailed at the top of the food chain in this part of Florida, but the gator now has some grand competition. Burmese pythons have been found on multiple occassions entangled with an alligator, and even a disturbing photo has been publicized of an alligator exploding out of a Burmese python. Many pythons have been captured and dissected in order to record what species are being consumed. An array of animals ,some of them endangered, have been discovered inside of their stomachs. This leaves scientists and consevationists feeling weary, as this is a huge problem that can completely change the general make-up of species that call The Everglades their natural home.



How to control the ever-growing python population is a very controversial issue. The state of Florida took the first step in 2008 by targeting pet owners. “Under captive wildlife rules, anyone possessing one of the nonnative reptiles classified as reptiles of concern–including Burmese pythons, amethystine pythons, reticulated pythons, African rock pythons, green anacondas and Nile monitor lizards–must obtain a $100 reptile of concern permit and adhere to caging requirements based on the size of the reptile. They also must keep a written and approved contingency plan in case of escape or natural disaster.” A couple years later the rules changed significantly, “In 2010, the Florida Legislature adopted a Conservancy-backed measure prohibiting personal possession of seven large constrictors and one large monitor lizard, formerly designated “reptiles of concern.” So now it is against the law to own a Burmese python in the state of Florida. There are also more “hands-on” approaches going on. People are actually getting out and into the wild to capture the pythons themselves. Although you have to have a license to do so, and most likely have to be a biologist or a herpetologist, there is a vague idea of what is happening to the serpents after they have been seized. Many of them are being euthanized and some are kept in captivity for scientific purposes. Many people see an economic opportunity arising from the python, such as selling the skins, and consuming the meat to make a quick profit. On the other hand, animal fanatics are throwing a fit over the killing of these creatures. The general public can also help out by calling the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission whenever they spot a snake. The call will be made and a professional will show up at the scene shortly after to handle the python. There is also a very popular show that aired on National Geographic called “Python Hunters” where cameras follow a group of men as they search and obtain these invasive species.
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