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Thursday, March 12, 2015

From the News: Big Snakes Targeted in New Federal Ban on Imports

Like the Ringling elephant news from earlier this month, this is an issue which doesn't directly impact the zoo community, but does have a tremendous impact on the private sector.  This ban doesn't occur in a vacuum - it arose in response to concerns about Burmese pythons, a popular pet species which has now become an established - some would say invasive - presence in the Florida Everglades.  

I personally don't think these bans are a good idea, mostly because I question the science that has gone into them.  The discussion about invasive constrictors has been more about emotion and hysteria than it has science and logic.  Some of the studies and reports that I've read indicate that the pythons will eventually spread throughout the southern third of the United States - which is preposterous.  Sure, they could maybe survive a few months out of the year, but I know what winter is like in my area (one of the regions shaded in on the map in these doomsday projections).  No pythons are going to be surviving a February like the one we had last month...

Large constrictors, like any exotic pet, need to be regulated.  I'm all for that (there are, I know, plenty of private owners who shun all forms of regulation, but I think they're a bit too extreme). Blanket bans, however, do not provide sufficient flexibility for people that demonstrate that they can safely and responsibly care for their animals.  They remove the private sector as a conservation breeding partner of zoos and aquariums.  They also, more abstractly, send the message that all wild animals are to be feared and avoided.

Invasive species are a problem.  After habitat loss, they might be the single biggest threat that wildlife faces around the world.  There is a right way and wrong way to fight any problem, however.  I'm concerned that, in this case, USFWS picked the wrong way...

Green anacondas, one of the four giant snake species now banned for import into the US

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