US hunters given green light to target Burmese Pythons

Wildlife officials in Florida say uncontrolled population of pythons threatens the Everglades' delicate ecosystem.

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    The most famous resident reptile in the Everglades in the US state of Florida is probably the American alligator.

    But the 1.5 million-acre park wetlands is also home to many non-native invasive species, including the Burmese Python.

    This python is the focus of a campaign to rid the wetland habitat of all non-indigenous newcomers, which are said to destroy the area's ecosystem.

    Now, wildlife officials are issuing hunting licences in the hope that the pythons, which number thousands, can be brought under control.

    "We're never going to win the battle, but if we can keep the numbers down, at least we have some type of control," Ozzy Gonzalez, an Everglades tourist guide and resident of the area, told Al Jazeera.

    Gonzalez said the danger pythons pose is real and "deadly".

    "We could be sitting here and not even know that they could be sitting inside these willows. You'll never see them," he said.

    Leo Sanchez, a python hunter, bore some of the scars from hunting the invasive snake. Over the past few years, he said, he has captured 80.

    "You know I have respect for them. I love them, I like to dance with them but after that bite I realised that if I had been alone that day, and that python bit me where it bit me, I probably wouldn't have made it" alive, he said. 

    When the first hunting licenses were issued, around 1,500 people from 38 states travelled to Florida for the hunt.

    Still, some remain sceptical that a reptile so suited to the state's sub-tropical climate can ever be completely eradicated.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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