|Resolve on Reptiles
As the recent tragedy in Zanesville, Ohio so painfully illustrated, there’s no good reason for individuals to keep dangerous predators as pets, and the outcome is inevitably disastrous—for the people who are put at risk, for the wild animals themselves who are confined in unnatural settings that fail to meet their complex needs, and, in this case, the animals who met such an untimely and violent death. Another news story that broke this weekend—a 76-pound adult female deer was found intact inside a 16-foot-long Burmese python in the Everglades—shows that when these exotic pets are released or escape into the wild, they are capable of wreaking ecological havoc on our natural resources.
That’s right, a giant snake swallowed a deer whole. Burmese pythons have colonized the Everglades—with an original group of snakes set loose by pet owners or escapees during a hurricane—and have now become a dominant predator in this storied American national park. People often purchase wild animals, like snakes, when they are young and manageable, but there are very few options for placement when the animals grow too dangerous to handle and are no longer wanted. These exotic predators are now fighting with alligators and killing untold numbers of native animals for food. It’s only a matter of time before one of them kills a highly endangered Florida panther or Key deer.
It’s no surprise that the U.S. Geological Survey recently released a report documenting potential environmental harm from the trade in large constrictor snakes. The 300-page study should erase any doubt about whether these giant creatures belong in the pet trade. All nine species of large pythons, anacondas, and boa constrictors studied pose either medium or high risk to our natural resources. Three of the species are already reproducing in Florida, where “a very large number of imperiled species are at risk from giant constrictors.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has rightly proposed a rule to ban the trade in these nine species of giant snakes, but the Obama administration has been delaying action. There’s no good reason for the White House to be weak-kneed simply because they’ve been hearing some complaints from the reptile industry lobby—the very people who have cost the nation hundreds of millions of dollars, given the government control efforts that have been initiated. It’s much more humane and fiscally responsible to deal with the problem on the front end through prevention. Why should all U.S. taxpayers shoulder the financial burden for a few people who make selfish and reckless decisions?
When you add in the threat to humans, and the suffering that the snakes themselves endure in the trade, then the case for a trade ban for these giant snakes is overwhelming. Please take action today and urge the White House to move forward and finalize a rule to stop the importation and interstate movement of these deadly snakes as pets. Every day we wait compounds the danger to public safety, animal welfare, and our natural resources.