Snake-killing spree for conservation ends on high note

2016-02-15 15:00 - Louzel Lombard
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Cape Town - Whilst you were drinking champagne at a candlelit dinner on Sunday, 14 February, more than 600 snake hunters who migrated down to the Everglades in January this year ended their open season by killing a record-breaking 102 pythons in Florida’s month-long Python Challenge.

It sounds macabre, but this 'challenge' was actually started in 2013 when the Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission realised that the tens of thousands of Burmese pythons slithering through their state’s subtropical wilderness were beginning to threaten the existence of other native mammals.

The population of foxes, raccoons, rabbits, and even the famous Florida panthers, were at risk of decreasing past the point of recovery, the Python Challenge's site says. 

So they decided to sort out the problem and organised the second-ever Python Challenge - a serpent killing competition which culminated on the most romantic day of the year.

Willing snake slayers were invited in teams to compete in a python-killing spree for money, and hunters with the longest, heaviest or most snakes killed can win up to $16 000 in cash prizes! That's more than R250 000! 

The final update on winning kills will be announced at the Python Challenge Awards Ceremony on Saturday, 27 February. 

(Photo: Edward Mercer on Python Challenge Facebook)

South Africa is far from a snake over-population crisis, yet the reptiles do come in contact with humans here every so often. 

Professional Cape Town mountaineer and hiker Timothy Lundy told Traveller24 on a hike in December last year that snakes will only migrate into the urban areas when their natural habitats are threatened. 

Lundy also said snakes have a natural instinct and accordance with the environment, which can cause them to flee an area before danger hits.

Referring to the Cape fires in March 2015, Lundy said the many snakes that were seen in urban areas and on Cape Town's beaches, sensed that their habitats were highly susceptible to fire and fled in time. 

SEE Pics: Cape Cobra spotted having morning slither on Hout Bay beach

Regardless of the danger associated with snakes, the reptiles fear humans more than visa versa, and often attack out of fear or threat from humans. 

These attacks do happen, unfortunately, and outdoor enthusiasts should be equipped and prepared to deal with snake bites appropriately. 

Check out What to know about snakes in SA this dry, summer holiday for a comprehensive guide to snakes and snake bites in SA. 

Pythons - like the ones killed in Florida over the past month - are not venomous, but still lethal. These massive reptiles kill prey by catching them in their grip and crushing them to death. Yikes. 

Check out the Python Challenge's motivational video here: 

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