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New book about Burmese pythons spotlights Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s efforts to save Florida’s ecosystem

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s groundbreaking research into Burmese pythons is featured in a newly released book that documents the species’ emergence as Florida’s apex predator.

Written by author Kate Messner, “Tracking Pythons: The Quest to Catch an Invasive Predator and Save an Ecosystem” explains how Burmese pythons began breeding in Florida and are impacting the state’s native wildlife. The book, geared for students ages 8-14, also explores how the Conservancy is attempting to thwart the python’s reign in the Everglades through research and decisive action.

The Conservancy, a national authority in python research, launched its Burmese Python Radio-Telemetry Study in 2013. Conservancy researchers have been documenting the python’s biology, behavior and breeding habits to develop a database of python activities in Southwest Florida. Research findings help land managers create management strategies to control the invasive species.

A key component of the research study is surgically implanting male pythons with a radio-transmitter before releasing “scout snakes” that lead researchers to other pythons during the breeding season. This tracking method helps the team to gain a better understanding of pythons’ movement patterns while sending researchers directly to the female pythons before they can lay their eggs. The captured pythons are humanely euthanized before Conservancy biologists perform a necropsy, log data and collect genetic samples for further studies.

“We not only are removing Burmese pythons from the wild, but also disrupting the breeding cycle of female pythons which is helping slow the python’s growth in our region of Florida,” said Ian Bartoszek, environmental science project manager at the Conservancy. “Burmese pythons have been eating their way through the Everglades and impacting the Greater Everglades  ecosystem, so it’s critically important that we follow the science to develop effective removal strategies.”

Burmese pythons are generalist predators and have been found to eat 24 species of mammals and over 43 species of birds. They can even eat alligators!

In addition to the Conservancy, current research partners in the tracking study include Big Cypress National Preserve, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Collier Seminole State Park University of Florida, Florida Gulf Coast University and the United States Geological Survey.

The research project is primarily funded through private philanthropic support and receives additional funding through the Naples Zoo conservation fund and from support through the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida.

Messner’s book explains how a species native to Southeast Asia was discovered in the U.S. – dead alongside a Florida highway in 1979. From there, pet pythons that escaped or were released by their owners started breeding in the wild, quickly becoming the apex predator and destroying the natural food chain that existed for centuries.

“Tracking Pythons: The Quest to Catch an Invasive Predator and Save an Ecosystem” is available in both a Kindle and hard copy version through Amazon at Amazon.com/Tracking-Pythons-Invasive-Predator-Ecosystem/dp/1541557069. Digital readers can watch video clips and see additional photographs of scientists in the field.

About the Conservancy of Southwest Florida:
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is a not-for-profit environmental protection organization with a 55-year history focused on the issues impacting the water, land, wildlife and future of Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Conservancy accomplishes this mission through the combined efforts of its experts in the areas of environmental science, policy, education and wildlife rehabilitation. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida, world-class Nature Center and von Arx Wildlife Hospital are headquartered in Naples, Florida, 1495 Smith Preserve Way, south of the Naples Zoo off Goodlette-Frank Road. Learn more about the Conservancy’s work and how to support the quality of life in Southwest Florida www.conservancy.org.

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