Florida has more nonnative reptiles and amphibians than anywhere else in the world with more than 60 that are established and breeding. South Florida has a subtropical climate, island-like geography (water on three sides, frost to the north), major ports of trade which provide plants and animals entry into the United States, thriving trade in exotic pets, and occasional destructive hurricanes which increases risk of escapes.
Africa’s largest snake, the African rock python, are breeding in a small area of south Florida (estimated 6 square miles of land). The African rock python has a thick, long body, which is patterned in blotches that range from brown, olive, and yellow-toned tan, which form irregular stripes and chunky-block pattern. It has a triangular head and many sharp, backwardly curved teeth, and is covered in small smooth scales. Around the mouth are heat-sensitive pits, which are used to detect warm-blooded prey, even in the dark. African rock pythons are found throughout almost the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal east to Ethiopia and Somalia and south to Namibia and South and western Africa.
Image: Edward Mercer, a non-native wildlife technician for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, holds a North African Python during a press conference in the Florida Everglades about the non-native species on January 29, 2015 in Miami, Florida (Image source: Jan. 28, 2015 - Source: Joe Raedle/Getty Images North America)
FWC In Florida, these snakes are a high priority species for management due to their large size and because of the extensive invasion of a similar species, the Burmese Python. They are very difficult to find, so determining how many north African rock pythons are present within the area is challenging.
Detection for the Burmese Python is between 0.005 and 0.01, and if we assume north African pythons are similar, then we would need over 300 visits to the area with no observations of pythons before it could be concluded with 95% confidence that the north African rock python population is not expanding.
There are efforts being carried out by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the University of Florida (UF) to research and remove the north African rock pythons from the wild in Florida. Biologists from FWC and UF, along with South Florida Water Management, and a handful of other organizations conduct surveys each week to locate these snakes. This year alone there have been two live captures of the African pythons, and one dead-on-arrival python which was run over with a commercial grade lawn mower. Recently, this species has been completely banned in the state of Florida, which means no new animals can be imported or exported from the state. Removal efforts have been in place since the first python sightings occurred in 2001, and banning this species will help keep these pythons from becoming as big a nuisance as the Burmese python.
More information on the Northern African rock python can be found by following the links below:
FWC Pest Brochure
Sun Sentinel News Article
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