U.S. Cracks Down on Python Sales

01-17-2012 // Curtis Morgan - McClatchy Newspapers

This excerpt is from the Miami Herald

The federal government branded the Burmese python, infamous for swallowing a smorgasbord of Everglades critters from rabbits to gators, a serpent non grata on Tuesday.

The action, which will ban the import and interstate sale of the python and three other giant exotic constrictors, was hailed by U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Florida Sen. Bill Nelson as a milestone for Everglades protection.

"It does us no good to put in these billions of dollars in investments in the Everglades only to have these giant snakes come and undo all the good we are doing," said Salazar, who announced the decision during a news conference along Tamiami Trial near an on-going $80 million bridge project that is key to restoring natural water flow in the Everglades.

The reaction was less enthusiastic from environmental and animal welfare groups. They contend the Obama administration watered down a more sweeping proposal that would have declared nine giant constrictors "injurious species," bowing to pressure by the pet industry and Republican lawmakers who branded the measure a job-killer based on shaky science.

The White House, after reviewing the proposal for more than a year, instead opted to put five of the species on hold for further study. That includes the boa constrictor, one of seven snakes designated by federal scientists as "high-risk" for spreading in the wild but also the most popular and valuable snake in a constrictor market that reptile breeders claim is worth $100 million a year.

...

Critics contend the administration was sold - as Bruce Stein, an associate director of the National Wildlife Federation put it - "a bottle of snake oil" by a cottage industry that overinflated its economic value and whose products could cost millions of dollars to control if they thrive in the wild like the Burmese python.

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