MIAMI -- A nationwide ban on importing four giant snake species or transporting them across state lines is costing reptile breeders, handlers, hobbyists and vendors millions and should be overturned, according to a lawsuit filed by a reptile industry trade association.
The ban on Burmese pythons, yellow anacondas, and northern and southern African pythons was announced last year in the Florida Everglades, which officials say pythons regard as an all-you-can-eat wildlife buffet where they have no competition except humans.
A lawsuit filed last week in federal court in Washington, D.C., seeks to overturn the ban. The North Carolina-based United States Association of Reptile Keepers says the ban is unnecessary and challenges the science behind it. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are named as defendants.
The ban applies a one-size-fits-all approach to a problem primarily affecting South Florida, said Joan Galvin, the attorney representing the reptile keepers.
Florida's population of Burmese pythons, which are native to India and other parts of Asia, likely developed from pets let loose either intentionally or in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
The snakes don't adapt to cold weather, which means they wouldn't last long anywhere else in winter. "Anywhere, pretty much, outside of Florida, they would have zero survival skills and would not pose a problem," Galvin said Monday.
According to the lawsuit, an initial proposal to ban nine snake species cost the reptile industry tens of millions of dollars as buyers shied away from spending money on pets they might not be able to move to another state. Some of the association's members euthanized brood stock they couldn't care for in an evaporating market.