Two Indian snake hunters have been hired by Florida wildlife officials to get rid of Burmese pythons, which are wiping out small mammal populations driving some nearly to extinction in a tropical wetland in the US state.
Masi Sadaiyan and Vadivel Gopal, both in their 50s, from the Irula tribe of Tamil Nadu, are being paid $68,888 to capture pythons in Key Largo. The duo of snake charmers will stay in Key Largo for the entire month of February to capture as many pythons as possible.
Along with the snake hunters, the Florida wildlife officials have hired two translators, and they’ll work with python detecting labradors, Vito and Floyd, who smell the pythons from feets away.
This effort is a part of ‘unique project’ of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to capture and kill the exotic pythons which prey on endangered species in Key Largo, rapidly driving them towards extinction.
Christina Romagosa, a researcher at University of Florida, says:
We were down there trying to determine if dogs can be used to look for pythons, and the answer is yes. Pythons are a cryptic species. They hide really well. Humans are not good at finding them. If you’re walking through an area in the Everglades and there’s a python nearby, chances are very low that humans will see it, that’s why we’re using dogs, and then the Irula tribesmen come in and do the capture. They’re specialists. That’s their livelihood.
So far the skilled Irula men and the trained dogs have captured thirteen snakes in less than two weeks. Capturing the snakes imply that several indigenous endangered species like the wood rat and the key deer will get another lease on life.