After a while, crocodiles

CROCODYLUS NILOTICUS

Seth Victor                                                 

Just in case you were worried that a python outbreak wasn’t enough, there’s another top predator in southern Florida. This past fall there have been sightings of Nile crocodiles south of Miami. This presents a bit of a conundrum for wildlife supervisors. You see the Nile crocodile is on international threatened lists, and is disappearing in its native habitat. Because Florida, however, is not its native habitat, and because the state already has to manage with non-native snakes eliminating the mammal population, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has authorized a state shoot-to-kill order. Though there are native crocodiles in Florida, the Nile crocodile is known to be fiercer and more deadly, and is one of the few animals left on the planet that still hunts humans.

While Nile crocodiles haven’t reached the infestation levels of the python, they are potentially more problematic in smaller numbers. FWC officers suspect that the crocodiles may have originated from an illegal captive breeding facility, but it is still unknown exactly from where they are coming, or how many there are.

Again we are faced with the same unresolved questions on how to handle non-native species that can drastically alter a habitat. Do we preserve a threatened species, one of the greatest and most resilient in history, or do we hunt down the crocodiles before they make other animals endangered or extinct? Or do we simply pit the pythons and crocs against each other in a winner-take-all showdown on prime time? Either way, it’s hardly an enviable decision for the FWC.

Hog Wild: Where Florida Hogs Can’t Catch a Break

Seth Victor

Population control is a powerful justification. If a species has outgrown its habitat, the population needs to be managed, lest the over-abundance of animals wreak havoc on the natural environment. And if that habitat wasn’t destroyed by the animals, but instead was converted into pools and condominiums, limiting the range of the animal, it seems that the solution remains the same.

I don’t intend to discuss the hypocrisy of population control as a whole just now. I bring it up, however, because the way in which it is done is of great concern. The problems with wolf hunts have been covered extensively in this blawg. Recently, their ranks of the persecuted have been joined by a perhaps unlikely bedfellow – hogs. Continue reading

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 humansContinue reading

The Tropical Fish “Crop”

David Cassuto

The recent cold weather in Florida has hurt the tropical fish industry.  I have a few things to say about this.  For one, the NYT refers to the fish as a “crop.”  I’ve railed about rhetoric in this space before (here, for example) but this one feels really egregious.  Since when are animals a “crop?”  What is it about fish that demotes them from sentience?  Continue reading

Exotics Lose in Florida

Marjorie Levine

Last month, a red-bellied piranha was caught by a 15-year-old boy.  The next day, fish and wildlife officials caught two more in the same lake.  No, this didn’t take place in the Amazon; it happened in West Palm Beach, Florida, The Piranha is not a Florida native, but, like the New York Snowbirds, these animals like the heat!  From south of Florida’s borders, these non-native animals have invaded Florida due primarily to negligent pet owners. When pets becomes too large, people simply release them into the wild without thinking of any consequences. The pets survive and flourish in Florida because the conditions are so similar to that of their natural ecosystem.

Although Florida has laws about importing non-native species, pet stores are still able to obtain licenses to sell exotic animals cheaply, which in turn attracts people to buy these exotic pets without researching the specifics of their care.  Some released pets, such as the green iguana, are able to move on land, migrating to different parts of Florida where Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission finds them almost impossible to control.  However, these piranhas were confined to one lake in West Palm Beach.  They could not infest other areas of Florida, as land animals can.  Why, then, was the choice made by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) to poison the entire lake to remove this one species? Continue reading

Racing “At” (Not “To”) the Airport

MIAToday, I learned that county officials would like to install slot machines in Miami International Airport (MIA).  Generally, I disapprove of slot machines; they embody all the bad about gambling (anti-social, no skill involved & you can’t beat the house) and none of the good (skill involved, you can beat the house, and it’s social).  However, the thing that makes this issue blawg-worthy lies with the Florida law that only permits slots at places where there is quarter horse racing.

That’s right, in order to have slot machines at MIA, there must also be horse racing.  One would think that would end the matter — it’s a ridiculous law, but it’s the law nonetheless, and horse racing and airports do not mix.  That’s what one would think but . . . Not so much.

County officials are currently considering a plan to hold horse races in the airport’s employee parking lot.  I kid you not.  Of course, holding races in the employee parking lot (the law requires 20-40 per year) would raise a host of problems — not least of them where employees would then park.  Nevertheless, officials, seeing the $17 million/year in revenue that slots will supposedly pour into county coffers, push on undeterred.  They are also negotiating with other tracks to hold the airport’s races there — whatever that means.

If this goes through and MIA starts having races in the parking lot, I have some other great ideas.  Cock-fighting in the VIP lounge?  Canned hunting in baggage claim?  I also think the security area would make a great CAFO.  If any airport officials read this blawg, let’s talk asap; we need to get in front of this thing.

–David Cassuto

Fish Pedicures — Who Knew?

The Florida Board of Cosmetology has taken a stand against fish pedicures.  Now, I know what you may be thinking — fish don’t have feet and even if they did, why would the Cosmetology Board want to prohibit their proper care and grooming?  Alas, fish pedicures are something different entirely.  They consist of humans sticking their feet into a small pool of water stocked with fish.  The fish then eat the dead skin off the humans’ feet.  In banning the procedure, Florida joins Massachusetts, Texas, Washington, New Hampshire and others.  Apparently, there is some concern over disinfecting the pool.

To my eyes, this story has some interesting subtext.  While there is an undeniable grossness factor that might make one instinctively support such a ban, anyone who has ever waded in a pond filled with fish knows that certain fish like feet (and dead skin).  The underlying issue here is not that fish eat dead skin but rather that, in this context, eating dead skin is all they can do.  The fish live their lives in a small pool, acting as living cuticle nippers in the service of human vanity.

So, for whatever reason, I’m glad it’s no longer permitted in Florida.  Hat tip to Florida Animal Law for breaking the story.  And here‘s a good read on the same issue in New Hampshire.

dnc

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