The Story of the Burmese Pythons
Everglades National Park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, especially east of the Mississippi (U.S. National Park Service). In addition, the Everglades is home to numerous rare and endangered species like the manatee, American crocodile, and the elusive Florida panther. Everglades National Park is recognized as a World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve, a Wetland of International Importance, and a specially protected area under the Cartagena Treaty (U.S. National Park Service).
Burmese pythons, also known as Python bivittatus, are native to the jungles and grassy marshes of Southeast Asia. Burmese Pythons can reach 23 feet or more in length and weigh up to 200 pounds and can have a girth as big as a telephone pole. The heaviest Burmese Python on record was from a reptile farm and weighed 403lbs (National Geographic:South Florida Natural Resource Center). In addition to their massive size, Burmese Pythons are excellent climbers and have the ability to stay submerged underwater for 30 minutes (National Geographic). Burmese Pythons are listed as vulnerable on the Endangered Species List due to habitat loss, depend for them in the exotic pet trade and hunting for their skins (National Geographic).
Researchers holding a large Burmese Python, source: The Smithsonian Institute
Burmese Pythons were introduced to the park as captive animals, in other words as pets, that were either accidentally or intentionally released. Prior to 2008, anyone could walk into a flea market and purchase a 20-inch baby snake for just $20 (South Florida Natural Resource Center). Within a year, though, that baby could grow to 5 feet or more, a size that requires substantial quantities of live mice and even rabbits to maintain. When full grown, these snakes get so large that their owners tend to release their now-unwanted pythons into the wild (South Florida Natural Resource Center). This is an example of wilderness/wildness because Burmese Pythons are taken out of their native habitat and placed into the exotic pet trade because to human demand for wild animals as pets. However, due to this change of of taking Burmese Pythons from wilderness to wildness causes pet owners to underestimate their ability to care for these snakes. Once they become too large for the pet owners liking/comfort-ability, they are released into nearby wilderness areas, like the Everglades. As a result, man has damaged an ecosystem that was supposed to be “untouched” by man. This damage then causes more human traffic in wilderness areas as we try to fix the damage we have caused.