Famous Indian snake hunters have been deployed to Florida to fight pythons.

The Everglades is famous for it beauty, but it has a serious problem: invasive giant snakes.

A wildlife technician holds a Burmese python. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

Burmese pythons are one of the largest species of snake on Earth. They're normally native to southeast Asia, but accidental releases and irresponsible pet owners introduced them to Florida as well.


Pythons can grow up to nearly 20 feet long and are eating native mammals and birds — even alligators and mountain lions aren't safe. What's worse, the pythons have started to breed.

For years, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and other local agencies and organizations have tried to keep the snakes contained. They've tried radio-tagging so-called Judas snakes to track down popular snake hangouts and hosting the annual Python Challenge for hunters.

Now Florida's trying out a new tactic: bringing in world-famous snake hunters from India.

Photo from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission/Facebook.

Masi Sadaiyan and Vadivel Gopal are part of the Irula tribe from India. The Irula live in Tamil Nadu, a state on the southern tip of India, and have been expert snake hunters for generations. They catch and milk cobras and other vipers, a vital step in producing life-saving anti-venom.

The University of Florida and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) brought the men to South Florida in early January to learn their secrets.

An Irula snake catcher in Chennai, India, in 2016. Photo from Arun Sankar/AFP/Getty Images.

As of this writing, Sadaiyan and Gopal have already caught 15 snakes, according to FWC.

They take a different approach than the typical biologist. Instead of focusing on sunny roads and levees — some of the snakes' favorite places to warm up — the men head for the thick brush, grass, and boulders. They're armed with only tire irons and use them to beat back tall grass while looking for subtle signs like tunnels, scat, or tracks in the sand. The biologists trail behind, accompanied by the men's two translators.

There was one point, reports the Miami Herald, where they spotted the tip of a tail sticking out from inside a vent in an old abandoned missile site. They followed the vent to find the other side, hoping to catch the snake if it escaped, only to find another different tail sticking out the other end. Over the next five hours, the men extracted four snakes, including a 16-foot-long female.

15 snakes are only a small fraction of the python population, but it's pretty great compared to other approaches.

Photo from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission/Facebook.

For comparison, about 1,000 hunters took part in last year's Python Challenge. After a month, they had only bagged 106 snakes. So two guys with tire irons catching 14 in two weeks is pretty great. But the point isn't just raw numbers, it's teaching biologists new ways to look for the snakes.

"Since the Irula have been so successful in their homeland at removing pythons, we are hoping they can teach people in Florida some of these skills," said FWC section leader Kristen Sommers.

An Irula snake hunter outside Chennai, India. Photo from Arun Sankar/AFP/Getty Images

The captured snakes are either euthanized or used for education. Sadaiyan and Gopel, for their part, seem to be having a good time.

"Coming to America is really fun and interesting, but catching all those snakes, that's why they're here," Sadaiyan said in the Miami Hearld. "They're hunters, and that's why they're here."

Sadaiyan and Gopal are expected to stay for a couple of months. So far they have been working in Key Largo and the Everglades, but they're expected to visit other areas of South Florida as well, says FWC.

Protecting the environment takes action.

Hopefully we'll continue our commitment to hard work, proactive thinking, and the protection of Florida's wild places.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

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Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

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Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

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Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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