US bans import of Burmese pythons

AFP Yahoo News 18 Jan 12;

The United States announced Tuesday it is banning the import of Burmese pythons and three other species of giant constrictor snakes due to the danger they pose to local wildlife.

The formal ban on importing or transporting across state lines the Burmese python, the yellow anaconda and the northern and southern African pythons will take effect in about two months, said the Fish and Wildlife Service.

According to the decision, the four big snakes are considered "injurious wildlife" and the ban aims to halt their spread in the wild. People who own them as pets would not likely be affected by the new restrictions.

"Burmese pythons have already caused substantial harm in Florida," said FWS director Dan Ashe, noting that they have preyed on endangered Key Largo wood rats while other pythons have eaten endangered wood storks.

"By taking this action today, we will help prevent further harm from these large constrictor snakes to native wildlife, especially in habitats that can support constrictor snake populations across the southern United States and in US territories."

US authorities have spent millions of dollars in the Florida Everglades due to the threat posed by the big snakes, "an amount far less than is needed to combat their spread," the FWS added.

Five other non-native snakes remain under consideration for listing as "injurious," including the reticulated python, boa constrictor, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, green anaconda and Beni anaconda.

The Burmese pythons are among the largest snakes on Earth and are native to southeast Asia, including Myanmar, also known as Burma.

U.S. Clamps Ban On Pythons, Yellow Anaconda
Tom Brown PlanetArk 18 Jan 12;

The United States announced a ban on Burmese pythons on Tuesday, after years of unsuccessful efforts to eradicate the giant snakes from the Everglades National Park in Florida.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who has championed the ban, said it would take effect within about 60 days and make it illegal to import the snakes or transport them across state lines.

Salazar announced the measure at a news conference at a flood control pumping station in a corner of the Everglades just outside Miami, where he was joined by Florida Senator Ben Nelson and two senior park and Florida Wildlife Commission officials as they held aloft a recently captured 13-foot (4-meter) python.

"The action were taking today is a milestone in the protection of the Everglades," Salazar said.

Biologists say most pythons in the Everglades are thought to have been released there by their owners once they realized that the "pets" can grow from just a foot to 12 feet long within their first two years of life.

In addition to the Burmese python, which has become one of the most notorious invasive species in U.S. history, the ban affects the yellow anaconda and northern and southern African pythons.

Invasive species in subtropical parts of Florida include dragon-like Nile Monitor lizards and raccoon-sized African rats.

But Burmese pythons, which are native to southeast Asia, have become the stuff of legend in the Everglades since they were first sighted in the wildlife haven in the mid-1970s.

With their razor-sharp teeth, they have been known to eat practically anything that moves in the park, from small mammals to large wading birds. Last year, a 15.7-foot (4.8-meter) Burmese was found with a huge bulge from a recently consumed 76-pound (34-kg) deer.

Compounding eradication problems, however, the bone-crushing snakes have also bred in the wild in the savanna and steamy swamps of the Everglades.

One of the creatures was aggressive enough to try devouring a 6-foot (1.8 meter) alligator in the park in 2005. The alligator was believed to have been dead already and the snake also died trying to digest it.

(Editing by Sandra Maler)