Banning Invasive Species — A Congressional Failure to Lead

Sarah Markham

Congress has been consistently asked to ban the importation of pythons into the United States, which Congress has failed to do.  This is an error on Congress part; as recently as October 17, 2011 a 16 ft. long Burmese python was discovered in Florida with a 76-lb. adult female deer inside.  This is an example of the long drawn out debate regarding native versus exotic (invasive) species.  Unfortunately this illustration is not rare or unheard of; in 2005, a python burst in the Everglades after attempting to swallow a live 6-ft. alligator.  It was not the fist documented event, and unfortunately not the last.  Both Flora and fauna exotic species can be considered pests.

Attributing the titles of native, non-native or invasive species must be questioned before asserted.  These titles have implications for mankind as well.  Additionally, a species being non-indigenous is not necessarily indicative of environmental harm.  Some species of plants that are not native to the ecosystem where they are found have provided great environmental benefits.  While another significant portion are considered invasive, especially if they: have rapid growth; asexual reproduction; can live off a variety of sustenance sources; have a tolerance of wide range of environmental conditions; or have an association with humans

If the aforementioned factors were applied to animals, many would fit the bill, including but not limited to cattle.  Hawaii now has non-native deer, feral cattle, pigs and sheep on the island chain.  In the past park rangers have shot the animals and fences have been built.  It must be recognized that the animals did not transport themselves to Hawaii; thus, humans are responsible for the non-native animals presence on the island chain.  With that said, how can it be ethical to use a lethal system to control the animal population?  A New York Times Journalist, who inquired about the best way to deal with the python problem in the Everglades, proceeded to ask what is the best way to kill the pythons.  Why is it assumed that a lethal solution is the solution we should aim for at all?  A possible answer could be one of the reasons why pythons are considered to be so dangerous:  they have no natural predator in the Everglades and pose a serious threat to the native species. Furthermore, the giant pythons can grow over 25 feet long and can adapt well in Florida even though it is native to Southeast Asia.

Senator Bill Nelson is calling for Congress to ban the importation of certain non-native species, specifically the python into Florida, in spite of Floridian wildlife officials claiming it could actually lead to more pythons being dumped into the Everglades, thus acerbating the problem.  Furthermore, the exotic pet industry has already lost business since Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission listed 6 python species as a conditional species.

Due to the harm that these non-native species can cause to the environments in which they now reside, it seems to me that the most humane option is to ban the importation of such species here in the first place.  However, if the Floridian Wildlife officials are correct and such a ban will result in the dumping of python species in the Everglades then the humane option of banning the importation of pythons is not the most reasoned option.  While waiting for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to include the Burmese python as an injurious wildlife species pursuant to South Florida Water Management District petition of June 2006, the number of pythons captured rose considerably, from 170 in 2006 to 367 in 2009.  Thus, the option of having the python listed as injurious species is the soundest course for Florida to take.

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One Response

  1. I see nothing wrong with killing specimens of an invasive species. They can be horrendously damaging. At the most immediate and practical level, who cares how they got there? That reminds me of the parable of the Buddha, pointing out that when a man has been shot by an arrow, don’t waste time in that moment worry about where the arrow came from, or who to blame — and help the wounded man! Deal with the problem, in the here and now.

    That said, this isn’t an either/or situation. There’s no reason why, while we kill those specimens already here — to mitigate the damage they are doing or might do — we cannot also work on restricting the ways they get into non-native environments to begin with.

    In other words, why choose? Deal with the problem from both ends.

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