JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's new list of injurious wildlife goes into effect. That means, four species of snakes will no longer be allowed to enter the country.
The new rules were put in place in response to the large number of Burmese pythons living in the wild in Florida. These snakes are non-native to the area and are disrupting the natural ecosystem, according to wildlife officials.
Scientists have found endangered and threatened animals including Key Largo woodrats, wood storks, limpkins and white ibis in the stomachs of Burmese pythons here in Florida.
To prevent their population from growing, the Burmese python, yellow anaconda, northern and southern African pythons are now listed on the "injurious" list under the Lacey Act.
The new law does not ban people from owning the snakes, just importing them. So those who already own these snakes do not have to get rid of the animals.
However, the new law also prevents people from transporting the snakes or their eggs into another state. Zoos that would like to travel with these animals are allowed to apply for a permit from the FWC for scientific, medical, educational or zoological purposes.
Currently, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm has a Yellow Anaconda in its collection. The Jacksonville Zoo has an African Python.
When the FWC first started looking at adding certain snakes to the Lacy Act, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums voiced some concerns over the permitting process. According to Steve Olson, Vice President of Federal Relations for the AZA, the permitting process can take months, making it difficult for zoos that rely on traveling educational programs for revenue.
"It's a trade off," explained Dan Maloney, Deputy Director of Conservation and Education for the Jacksonville Zoo. "It's a fair trade off in this case because these big snakes are not supposed to be here in the wild and we feel that it's important to be prudent and use good judgment when you're picking your pet."
First Coast News