Birders urge ban on imports of 5 snake species

November 28, 2012

The reticulated python.
The reticulated python. Photo by Rhett Butler.

Bird conservationists in the United States are urging Congress to ban imports of five types of snakes that are considered a threat to native birds.

In a letter sent the U.S. House Resource Committee, the American Bird Conservancy called for a ban on imports and inter-state trade in reticulated pythons, green anacondas, boa constrictors, and two other constrictor species. The group says the snakes should be listed as “injurious wildlife” under the Lacey Act, a 112-year-old law governing the trade in wildlife and plant products.

“This bill (H.R. 511 –To Prohibit the Importation of Various Injurious Species of Constrictor Snakes) is necessary to prevent the further spread of these aggressive, invasive predators,” said Darin Schroeder, Vice President for Conservation Advocacy at the American Bird Conservancy. “It’s well-established that these snakes are highly adaptable to new environments, and that they consume a wide variety of prey, including mammal, amphibian, lizard, and threatened and endangered bird species.”

The reticulated python.
Boa constrictor in Colombia. Photo by Rhett Butler.

The problem with these snakes stems not so much from trade, but from irresponsible pet owners who release them into the wild where they prey on native wildlife. The American Bird Conservancy cited a recent study which found that birds account for a quarter of a typical Burmese python's diet in the Everglades. Burmese pythons — native to Southeast Asia — are invasive in Florida.

The group also highlighted the large-scale die-off of native birds in Guam after the brown tree snake was introduced. Nine of the island's 11 native land birds have gone extinct to date. The snakes also caused other problems, including disruption of the island's power and communications systems. The group warned Hawaii could be next.

“If snakes were to reproduce and proliferate, it quickly may be too late to stop them, and as a result, every measure to keep them out of places like Hawaii needs to be taken,” said Schroder in the letter.

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mongabay.com (November 28, 2012).

Birders urge ban on imports of 5 snake species.