African rock python tries to swallow a buck whole. Photo credit: alex_griffiths via Flickr/CC BY-SA
Florida has long battled an invasive population of Burmese pythons in the Everglades. But a new species of invasive snake--the African rock python has recently been found on the loose as well. At least five rock pythons, one that measured 14 ft long, have just been captured in Miami-Dade county. Now, experts' fears are mounting that the Burmese and African rock pythons will begin breeding--and give rise to a new, dangerous 'super snake.'The African rock pythons were initially thought to be a few escaped pets that could be contained--but the recent spate of discoveries shows that they may indeed be a brand new breeding population in the Everglades. Which is bad news. The LA Times reports:
state environmental officials worry that the rock python could breed with the Burmese python, which already has an established foothold in the Everglades. That could lead to a new "super snake," said George Horne, the water district's deputy executive director. In Africa, the rock python eats creatures as large as goats and crocodiles. There have been cases of the snakes killing children.According to local wildlife experts, the rock python is "bigger and meaner than the Burmese python." Which is precisely why fears are stirring that a hybrid python may be on the rise in the Everglades.
To illustrate, here's a little equation:
Burmese Python. Photo: wildxplorer via Flickr/CC BY
African Rock Python. Photo credit: Tigerpython via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY
Trouble. An African rock python devouring an antelope. Photo credit: Timo Westermann via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY
Thousands of Burmese pythons already thrive in the area, with no natural predators to keep them in check--now imagine if they were bigger, stronger, and nastier in disposition. It would indeed present a very real threat not only to Florida's ecosystem, but potentially to families with children in the area.
Burmese pythons have already been known to occasionally attack children--and scientists consider the rock python even more dangerous. LeRoy Rodgers, a water district scientist, is concerned about both of them: "These are animals that are hot predators, and now there are two species to worry about." And now, counting the possibility of a 'super snake', maybe there will be one more.
More on Florida and Pythons
Pythons Are a Growing Problem (Video)
The Everglades and Galapagos--Two Ecosystems Imperiled