Florida’s Pythons No Match for India’s Singing Snake Hunters

U.S. immigration law provides an ‘alphabet soup’ of visa options to brings in foreign workers to fill a virtually limitless range of positions in the United States. The Murthy Law Firm, has helped everyone from physicians and tech workers to kung fu masters and experts in extreme weather phenomena bring their respective unique skills and knowledge to the United States. But, a recent story from the Miami Herald highlights a most unusual category of temporary worker that you’re likely to ever hear about – singing snake hunters!

In January, the state of Florida began an unconventional method to deal with its ongoing python infestation. Instead of traps or poison, a pair of singing snake hunters from India has been employed to work with the University of Florida to curtail the overpopulation of pythons in the Everglades. And while they have only been tracking the snakes for a few weeks, they’ve already surprised local ecologists with their success.

Burmese pythons have long been considered a scourge in Florida because they are not indigenous to the region, breed rapidly, and have wiped out many native populations of mammals in the Everglades region. A variety of methods has been tried in the past to cull the number of pythons, ranging from traps, poisonous sprays, a species of “Judas” snake known to prey on pythons, and even an annual Python Challenge where local amateur hunters were invited to hunt and capture the snakes. But consistent success in keeping the python population down was elusive.

That’s when University of Florida biologist Frank Mazzotti, esteemed herpetologist Romulus Whitakers, and Joe Wasielewski, another South Florida herpetologist, had an idea – to import snake hunters from the famed Irula tribe of India. The Irulas have been present in India for thousands of years, and are such skilled snake hunters that they eradicated the entire python population in their native Indian state. In recent years, the tribe has tracked cobras to collect antivenom. Mazzoti noted in a recent interview with The Miami Herald that many of his colleagues were skeptical of the idea at first. “People said, ‘They know how to hunt in India, not the Everglades, and cobras, not pythons,” he recalls. But the three experts persisted, and were eventually able to help secure temporary tourist visas for Masi Sadaiyan and Vadivel Gopal, two Irula tribesman from India in their mid-50s, as well as two translators.

When the snake hunters arrived in Florida, it quickly became apparent that their methods were unconventional. Instead of sophisticated tracking equipment, they used only tire irons to wade through the dense swampy brush of the Everglades. If they were having difficulty locating pythons, they would stop to sing a prayer out loud. But the pair quickly proved their talents when they located three large pythons in an abandoned missile base in Key Largo. And while it’s still too early to predict the long-term success of the two-month long experiment, which is being funded by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conversation Commission, optimism is high. As for Sadaiyan and Gopal, while they have enjoyed their time in the United States, which has included football, trying hot dogs, and speaking to a high school environmental science class, they are well aware of their mission here. As Sadaiyun recently explained to Whitaker through his translator, “They’re hunters and that’s why they’re here.” [See Famed Snake Trackers from India Latest Weapon in Florida War on Pythons, by Jenny Staletovich, The Miami Herald, 23.Jan.2017.]

 

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