Snake hunters from India help nab unwanted pythons in Florida
They came all the way from India to Florida with one purpose: to hunt and capture as many pythons as possible.
And now the two members of an ancient tribe known as the Irula have quickly become the best snake hunters Florida has ever seen.
Pythons typically empty their bowels when they are caught, when they are frightened . . . there can be literally gallons of stuff.- Janaki Lenin
Writer, filmmaker and conservationist Janaki Lenin has been accompanying the two men and documenting their python hunt.
She tells As It Happens guest host Helen Mann that the once-nomadic Irula tribe has a connection to snakes that is centuries-old.
JANAKI LENIN: We do know that the Irula have a history of catching snakes for the snakeskin industry through the 1800s . . . up until 1972 when India banned the export of snakeskins. And because we live in a very hot country, these guys are literally tracking snakes on hard clay soil and they are reading tracks like bushmen would in the Kalahari. That's how fine-tuned they are. And we do not know of any other people in the world who would track snakes like that.
HELEN MANN: How would they deal with the risks this entails?
JL: Well, in India they catch venomous snakes for milking them for the production of anti-venom serum. So actually this is not that dangerous.
HM: I understand it can be messy work, if the snake decides to struggle?
JL: Yeah, it is. Pythons typically empty their bowels when they are caught, when they are frightened. And with a small snake, you don't think much of it. But if you're catching a large python, there can be literally gallons of stuff and it's very smelly . . . and you know there's been some jokes about who's allowed in the van after a python catch.
JL: Masi — one of our hunters — said, "You know, you can't be bothered about snake faeces. If you get worried like that, you won't catch any snakes." And he kind of very dramatically took a pinch of the yellow stuff from his shirt and put it on his forehead, as if blessing himself.
HM: What do these two Irula tribesmen think of being in Florida?
JL: They say they're very happy to be here and they've never had anyone give them free reign and say, "Here go and catch as many snakes as you can." Because in India tracking snakes is very regulated and is based on strict licensing . . . Here it's the opposite. I mean, there are regulations, but the goal is to catch as many pythons as you can.