Large python snake seized by the police

The Nature Foundation assisted the police and prosecutor’s office to take a large snake (Burmese Phython of almost 4 m) which was held as a pet in a small enclosure (max 3 by 3 feet). According to the ‘Algemene PolitieKeur’ Article 29 it is prohibited to keep wild animals without a permit of the minister, therefore the prosecutor decided to seize the snake. Besides, there are high risks to the environment and native species if the snake escapes or is (accidentally) released into he wild. Pythons can easily eat birds (even large ones), mammals, other pets or bite humans. 

If the snake would escape or be released, it could seriously damage the native species on St. Maarten. These snakes can reproduce quickly, establish themselves as a population and are known to be invasive, females can lay clutches of up to 100 eggs a time. The concern of the Nature Foundation is to end up as Aruba, this country has large problems due to the invasive boa constrictor population. The Boa constrictor is not a native snake on Aruba, however nearly every day specimens up to 2 meters long are captured. Most likely irresponsible owners of pet Boa constrictors released their animals in the wild, causing the population to settle. These boas are fast breeders and adapt well on the environment of Aruba, causing snakes to show up everywhere. Besides, these snakes have no natural enemies on islands such as Aruba and St. Maarten, having no means to keep populations in check. The bird population seems to be particularly at risk due to pythons and boas. The Foundation wants to prevent snake species to escape to the wild and end up as an unsolvable problem, like Aruba has. 

Besides, a loose snake can cause danger to the safety of our people, as it can eat small pets, it could attack people and bite them, which is very painful. Burmese Pythons kill by constriction, grasping a victim with their sharp teeth, coiling their bodies around the animal, and squeezing until it suffocates. They have stretchy ligaments in their jaws that allow them to swallow all their food whole. The Python which was confiscated is healthy and very docile as it is used to be handled as pet since young, however behavior can change when released or when the snake is hungry, or their babies could show different behavior.   

The enclosure of a Burmese Python needs to be quite large, as they are ground dwellers, their enclosure should be much longer than it is tall and will need a warm, humid environment. As the snake is estimated to be 4 meters, the enclosure should be something like 5 by 2 meters at least, to make the snake able to stretch out totally and move. 

The owner has been given a chance by the prosecutor to find a new legal and humane home for the snake outside our island, the Nature Foundation is willing to assist. As the python grew up in captivity, zoo’s in other countries could be a feasible option, people who know a viable option can report it to the nature foundation via info@naturefoundationsxm.org.

Wild populations of Burmese pythons are considered to be “threatened” in their home countries; therefore, the species is listed on Appendix II of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). CITES Annex ll species are species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival. According to the convention bringing a snake to St. Maarten without the proper CITES export permits is considered illegal and part of the illegal wildlife trade. In order to leave the country of Sint Maarten the Burmese Python needs a CITES re-export certificate, however permits can only be issued when in line with the CITES convention. 

The Burmese python (Python bivittatus) is one of the largest species of snakes. It is native to a large area of Southeast Asia but is found as an invasive species elsewhere. The snake is famous for his invasion in south Florida (Everglades) and is now established there as a population. The python is popular for the (illegal) pet trade. The importation of Burmese pythons was banned in the United States in January 2012 due to its negative impact on the native species in this area, as birds, foxes and rabbits disappear from areas invaded by this python and population of deer, raccoons, coyote are threatened. This python eats mainly birds and mammals. It is often found near human habitation due to the presence of rats and mice as a food source. The IUCN has recently listed the Burmese python as “vulnerable”, reflecting its overall population decline. Important reasons for the decline are trade for skins and for food; habitat degradation may be a problem in some upland areas.