Two University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural wildlife biologists are using tribesmen from India and Labrador Retrievers to help the state remove invasive Burmese pythons from the Florida Everglades.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reached out to Frank Mazzotti, a professor of wildlife ecology and Christina Romagosa, an assistant research professor to help find and eradicate Burmese python in the southern part of the state. Mazzotti and Romagosa, both in the UF/IFAS department of wildlife ecology and conservation, decided to team up using unique methods to rid the state of the invasive pest.
“The Irula tribesmen, located in southern India, are world renowned for their ability to catch snakes,” Mazzotti said. “I heard about them through an acquaintance, Rom Whitaker, who lives in India and works with the tribesmen. He recommended that I work with the Irula to find the Burmese python in the Everglades, and five years later we finally made it happen.”
“The job of the tribesmen is to find the snakes, catch them and teach us how to do it better,” Mazzotti said. “They are better at finding snakes than anybody else in the world. And when they catch the snakes they don’t let go, no matter what refuge the python might seek.”
According to Mazzotti, there are no estimates for the number of Burmese python in the Everglades. Researchers believe the pythons were released into the Everglades or escaped pet owners.