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Science Wednesdays: Invasion of the Giant Pythons

Tue, 06/18/2013 - 10:15am -- WCVE

Florida’s Everglades National Park is one of the last great wildlife refuges in the United States, home to numerous unique and endangered mammals, trees, plants, birds and turtles, as well as half a million alligators. However, the Everglades is also the dumping ground for many animal invaders — more than 15 species of parrot, 75 kinds of fish and 30 different reptiles from places as far away as Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.

All of the intruders found their way into the park either by accidental escape from pet owners or intentional release by people no longer wishing to care for an exotic species. Add to the mix tens of thousands of giant pythons, snakes that can grow to 20 feet and weigh nearly 300 pounds, some released into the wild by irresponsible pet owners, some escapees from almost 200 wildlife facilities destroyed by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. The predatory pythons slithered into this protected wilderness and thrived, and the refuge has consequently become less a haven than a killing ground every day since then.

Watch Nature: Invasion of the Giant Pythons June 19 at 8:00 p.m. on WCVE PBS/WHTJ PBS

The Everglades are similar to the Burmese pythons native Asian habitat, and the predatory snakes have moved in to their new home with a vengeance. They are thriving in the protected wilderness the park offers, disrupting its delicate ecosystem in the process. Nature follows scientists and snake hunters as they study the problem and try to find solutions to the growing crisis.