Two new efforts are underway to remove nonnative pythons in Florida. The Irula tribe, world-renowned snake catchers from India, are assisting. [Photo: Ed Metzger/University of Florida]
MIAMI (AP) - Florida has gone halfway around the world to get help with its python problem.
Wildlife officials recruited tribesmen from India to hunt the Burmese pythons believed to be decimating native mammals in the Everglades.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission hopes the Irula tribesmen - well-known for their snake-catching skills - reveal a reliable way to track and spot the tan, splotchy snakes that all but disappear in the wetlands unless they're basking in the sun alongside a road or canal.
"Since the Irula have been so successful in their homeland at removing pythons, we are hoping they can teach people in Florida some of these skills," Kristen Sommers, head of the wildlife commission's exotic species coordination section, said in a statement Monday.
The tribesmen removed 13 pythons in just over a week, including four from the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Key Largo. One of the snakes was a female measuring 16 feet long.
Two tribesmen from the province of Tamil Nadu in southern India are joined in their hunt this month by dogs trained by University of Florida and Auburn University researchers to sniff out pythons.
A year ago, the state's public "Python Challenge" netted 106 snakes. Over 1,000 people signed up for the monthlong hunt. In an average year, about 200 pythons are caught in Florida.