Court sides with reptile keepers against giant snake ban

2017-04-18 08:11
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Miami - US wildlife officials can't legally stop interstate trade of giant exotic snakes such as Burmese pythons, which threaten to eat all the native mammals in the Florida Everglades, an appeals court has ruled.

However, snake owners are cautioned not to move their reptiles just yet, as other legal challenges may remain. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is reviewing the ruling.

The North Carolina-based United States Association of Reptile Keepers sued the US government in 2013, asking a federal court in Washington to overturn a nationwide ban on importing certain constrictor species or transporting them across state lines.

Trying to protect native wildlife and prevent non-native snakes from spreading, US wildlife officials banned Burmese pythons, yellow anacondas, and northern and southern African pythons in 2012. The ban was extended to reticulated pythons, DeSchauensee's anacondas, green anacondas and Beni anacondas in 2015.

The first giant snake ban was announced in 2012 in the Florida Everglades, where officials say tens of thousands Burmese pythons have decimated populations of native mammals that had never before encountered such a large predator.

Native to parts of Asia, pythons found a home in the Miami-area wetlands after being intentionally let loose by their owners or escaping breeding facilities after Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

The ruling does not change the ban on importing these snakes or other "injurious" species, nor does it affect state laws such as Florida's prohibition against keeping pythons as pets.

The entire ban was unnecessary because the vast majority of exotic snakes sold in the US are bred domestically, and they could only survive in the wild in a handful of counties in Florida and Texas, said Phil Goss, president of the reptile keepers association.

"I understand Florida has a unique situation, but if you look at this anywhere else in the country, it's an issue of government overreach," Goss said.

Read more on:    us  |  snakes

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