BY DR. RUSCENA WIEDERHOLT
WHAT’S TALLER THAN A GIRAFFE, WEIGHS UP TO 200 POUNDS, & CAN SWALLOW DEER IN A SINGLE GULP?
YOU GUESSED IT, THE NOTORIOUS INVADERS OF SOUTH FLORIDA…
Nary a cocktail party passes when a stranger, learning of my job, doesn’t ask about pythons. These giant snakes have captured our horror and fascination, but the actual tale is both better and worse than we can imagine. So for revelers and teetotalers alike, here’s the story…
Let’s start at the beginning. As its name implies, this species originates from Burma, south and southeast Asia. One of the world’s 5
largest snakes, they can reach lengths of 23 feet and swell to the girth of a telephone pole. In anironic twist, they’re classi ed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in their native range. Habitat degradation poses aproblem, as well as being hunted for food, their beautiful skins, and captured for the pet trade.
If eating, owning, or wearing a python wasn’t enough, you can also drink them—in the form of a traditional medicine known as snake wine. Like it sounds, this is a snake-infused alcoholic drink.
Never one to mix preserved animals in my drinks, this is one cocktail I’ll pass on.
The python’s dwindling population in their native range links back to Florida via cute hatchlingsnakes, sold as pets. Burmese pythons are a popular pet, so popular in fact that nearly 100,000 of them were imported to the U.S. between 1996and 2006. They’re also captively bred here—butlike all babies, they grow fast, and those charming hatchlings can transform into 8 foot long snakes within a year. Some pet owners, unable to care for their now giant snakes, release them into the wild. These careless, and not to mention illegalactions, have led to a massive problem.