Snake catchers from India are helping find and remove Burmese pythons in environmentally sensitive areas in Florida.
Snake Catchers Captured 14 Snakes In Just Two Weeks
In just two weeks since their arrival early this January, a pair of Irula tribesmen from India, in collaboration with biologists from the University of Florida, managed to catch 14 pythons, which include a 16-foot female snake. The Indian trackers and biologists found the python along with three other snakes.
Skilled Snake Hunters
Based on the number of snakes they captured, the skills of the tribesmen are exceptional in that they were able to catch 14 snakes in just two weeks.
For perspective, hunters who participated in the Python Challenge, a yearly contest that aims to give attention to the python problem in Florida, were able to capture just 106 snakes last year. The Python Challenge was participated in by 1,000 snake hunters who are mostly amateurs. The hunters who participated the year before that snagged only 68 snakes.
Non-Conventional Tracking Techniques
The snake trackers use non-conventional tracking techniques to catch their targets but these appear to work. UF biologist Frank Mazzotti, who is part of a team that investigates pythons and other wildlife, said that seven of the snakes that have so far been captured would not have been found without the help of the tribesmen.The tribesmen are members of the Irula tribe whose members are famed snake hunters in India.
"Since the Irula have been so successful in their homeland at removing pythons, we are hoping they can teach people in Florida some of these skills," said Kristen Sommers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "We are working with our partners to improve our ability to find and capture pythons in the wild."
$68,888 For Pair Of Snake Hunters From India And Two Translators
The snake hunters are not only efficient. The pilot project involving them is also comparably cheap. The project costs only $68,888 for tribesmen Masi Sadaiyan and Vadivel Gopal and two translators for two months.
Since their arrival early this month, the two men who are both in their 50s, have been heading into the Everglades nearly every day armed with tire irons for punching through dense Burma reed and sharp limestone rock.
Assisted by biologists, the pair search for the sparkle of snakeskin in the bush and look out for what snakes leave behind, such as ripples in the sands and tunnels through grass or scat. The signs alert them of the presence of snakes.
Florida's Snake Problem
Although Burmese pythons are native to Southeast Asia, they have managed to establish a breeding population in South Florida, which became a problem since these slithering animals prey on birds, crocodilian species, and mammals.
Experts have observed that the pronounced reduction in the number of animal species coincided with the spread of pythons in Florida, suggesting the impact of the snakes' population on native animals.
Biologists have tried using radio-tagged "Judas" snakes, trained dogs, and even poisoned prey to combat the problem but the snakes' number keeps growing.