I believe the invasion of the Burmese python in the state of Florida is not being taken seriously enough. The problem is not only the extreme decrease in the local animal populations; but these snakes could potentially destroy the entire ecosystem.
Introducing a species into an area that is not its native habitat results in three possible outcomes. Firstly, the new population could be almost immediately wiped out by the native species. Secondly, it could coexist with the native species having little impact on the processes of the ecosystem. These outcomes, although possible, are far less likely than the third outcome — an invasive species. Like other invasive species, this highly adapted, predatory snake could easily upset the fragile balance in the food web of southern Florida. Even the removal of a single species from a food web could create a domino effect, which could leave the local ecosystem struggling to survive.
The effects of invasive species like the Burmese python are very serious, and are both environmental and economical. A study by Cornell University in 1999 found that the roughly 50,000 invasive species in the United States have economic effects to the tune of US $137 billion annually. As well, 42 per cent of threatened and endangered species are at risk due to these invasive species. Burmese pythons are known to eat 68 threatened and endangered species in the Everglades region. Even though the Burmese python is thriving in Florida it too is an endangered species. In its native home in Asia habitat loss and human actions, either hunting the snakes for their skins or being captured and shipped to places like the United States to be sold as pets, has greatly dwindled the population.
Contrary to the belief that the Burmese python is not aggressive towards humans, there have been several attacks reported in the news. The effect on human populations if the python continues to expand is unknown.
The rapidly expanding population of Burmese pythons could quickly and easily become a serious problem if steps aren’t taken to slow their growth. Although the state of Florida has banned the import, sale or trade of the pythons, it doesn’t change that fact that tens of thousands are already there. More needs to be done.
Jeff Bertram (second year environmental science student)