Python Wars

This Tuesday at 10P et/pt, Explorer‘s “Python Wars” is exposing the issue of Burmese pythons breeding in the Everglades, and whether they could throw off its ecological balance.

After studying and dissecting invading pythons, scientists confirm that the Everglades’ native species are in trouble.

VIDEO: Phil loved his pet python, Victoria — until she tried to eat his daughter >>

VIDEO: An invasion of Burmese pythons threatens the native species of the Florida Everglades >>

A few years back, a Burmese python made the news because it actually attempted to digest an alligator in the Florida Everglades — and then burst.

See this amazing photo and read the backstory >>

Nat Geo News Editor David Braun’s Eye on the World blog delves into why “biologists and veterinarians are urging the U.S. Congress to hold off on a ban on trade in pythons and other large exotic snakes until research into how much of a threat they pose to U.S. ecosystems has been thoroughly reviewed by independent scientists.”

Read the rest of his examination into this issue >>

Also in his blog he features a piece on “What’s it’s like to be a Florida python hunter” >>

Find out what their range is, what they sound like, and other fast facts on the Burmese python.

Review Burmese python profile >


  1. Specialtyserpent
    February 11, 2010, 12:22 am

    I saw a re run of it and will say the show was garbage..

    They never even once mentioned the real reason why the Burmese pythons are in the Everglades, and that was due to Hurricane Andrew in 1992. There are scientifc DNA tests to confirm this, that the pythons being captured are all descendents from a few animals. If pet owners were releasing them, then there would be more genetic variation in the snakes being captured. But there is not.

    The USGS map they showed of the pythons invading the southern third of the US is bogus. It has been debunked by an independent panel of 11 herpetologists and other scientists as "unscientific" and "not suitable for the basis of legislative or regulatory policies". It is based only on speculation of global warming and climate alone, when there are many other factors that influence and limit their distribution.

    I am most disappointed to say, that if NatGeo does not provide the truthful and factual programming that many of its viewers expect and deserve, I WILL NO LONGER be patronizing your channel. I’ve lost respect for NG for airing this.

  2. Specialtyserpent
    February 11, 2010, 12:31 am

    PR: Scientists Call USGS Report "Unscientific"
    PRESS RELEASE November 24, 2009, 5 AM EST

    Scientists Characterize Justification for Congressional Python Ban as “Unscientific”

    November 24, 2009, Wilmington, NC- In a letter to the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary an independent group of scientists today characterized a United States Geological Survey (USGS) report being touted as the justification for a ban on import and trade in pythons as “unscientific”.
    The independent group of scientists and herpetologists, including professors from the University of Florida, Arizona State, and Texas A&M among others penned members of Congress in response to comments made by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) during a November 6th hearing on H.R. 2811, a bill that could determine the fate of much of the reptile trade in the United States. During that hearing USFWS Deputy Director Dan Ashe characterized the USGS report as “peer-reviewed science”, a claim that struck a nerve within the scientific community.

    “It is a misrepresentation to call the USGS document ‘scientific’” stated the scientists. “As written, this [USGS] document is not suitable as the basis for legislative or regulatory policies, as its content is not based on best science practices, it has not undergone external peer-review, and it diverts attention away from the primary concern. We encourage the USFWS and USGS to submit this document to an independent body for proper and legitimate peer review. Additionally, we encourage the Committee to review this document, not as an authoritative scientific publication, but rather as a report currently drafted to support a predetermined policy”.

    H.R. 2811, Introduced by U.S. Representative Kendrick Meek (D-FL), who recently announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, could add all pythons, and even boas, to the Injurious Wildlife list of the Lacey Act; a designation reserved for only the most dangerous alien invaders to our natural ecosystem. Such a move would prevent all import, export, and interstate transport of pythons in the U.S. The scientific justification for such a move hinges on a recently published report of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) entitled ‘Risk Assessment of Nine Large Constricting Snakes’, which attempts to paints a picture of large constrictor snakes as an immediate threat to eco-systems over much of the U.S.

  3. John S. Crickmer
    February 11, 2010, 1:19 am

    National Geographic just isn’t what it used to be. Is it the desire for money with the tabloid journalism or is it just an affinity for the PETA HSUS agenda? The Naturalist Elite agenda is not very becoming. Please shed that mantle.

  4. AGActaeonia
    February 11, 2010, 1:46 am

    This program was media-sensationalism and bias personified. It was a slap in the face to the just and growing outcry against pressing snake-ban legislation and completely inappropriate as well as based on ignorance, misrepresentation, hearsay and unproven statistics as well as blatant lies.

    It’s a far cry to suggest that I’ve ever been more disgusted in a single hour so long as I’ve lived.

  5. Specialtyserpent
    February 12, 2010, 4:40 pm


    The merely 5-6 second blurb about us, a $3 billion per year industry with tens of thousands of individuals across the country, in what an hour long program being "upset about the legislation" was indeed an insulting slap in the face that did not do any justice. That was the most minimal, half hearted attempt at being "fair and balanced" I have seen, if you ask me.

  6. mcdowelli76
    February 12, 2010, 8:29 pm

    I am disappointed but not shocked that our media channels are selling out real science in the name of ratings and specials interest hand outs. While I have heard from someone who was in the History channels show who said the truth was edited out I expected more from Nat Geo. Fear mongering and lies have no place when the truth is known but left out in the name of ratings. Who paid the station to air such a awful and damaging misrepresentation of the situation?

  7. jpearce
    February 19, 2010, 1:34 am

    This was probably the worst Explorer I have ever seen. Sensationalist garbage, Peter Coyote’s melodramatic voiceover is as grating like that moment when Taboo sticks in a "some might consider it……..TABOO" except for a whole hour.

    Who knew predators eat other animals? And that people and animals are other animals? And that they might like the Everglades?

    Really this show is terrible I couldn’t even finish it because I was rolling my eyes so hard I went cross-eyed.

  8. NGC Community Moderator
    February 23, 2010, 5:27 pm

    Python Wars — Blog Discussions

    Thank you for the comments on Python Wars. Here is a response to some of the posted comments from the production team that created the show:

    -The 1992 Hurricane Andrew story is covered in our film and we present this theory for the initial python population in the Everglades as it is discussed among various groups of pet owners, breeders, and scientists. Many people in the scientific community believe it is an urban legend, while others do not. If you missed this discussion, the show will air again on NGC, please check the website for times and dates.

    -The USGS climate study we refer to as “controversial” in our film is introduced to illustrate one theory put forth by researchers at the USGS, a highly credible institution. Scientists continue to debate the ability of pythons to survive in different climates, and the USGS study is one discussed within our overall coverage. We are aware of the ongoing debate that continues to evolve surrounding the USGS report and feel we framed our reporting accordingly based on information available at the time of our production.

    -At several points throughout the film, we have distinguished between the vast majority of snake owners who act responsibly and the minority who have trouble with their pets. We felt this was a very important distinction to make.

    -We would like to point out that our re-creations are intended to illustrate certain points within our program and are performed by actresses and actors, and were produced with professional snake handlers. Our film does not contain footage captured of any actual attack on a human, nor did we actually release any snakes into the wild.

    -Finally, the film takes no position on the need for a snake ban. It simply reports that such a ban is being considered in Florida. We also report that this proposed ban is quite controversial.

    This film is one of many resources put forth by National Geographic available to the public. We encourage audiences to take full advantage of all of the resources we provide on this topic in order learn more about issues we explore in our films. For your convenience, we have compiled numerous sources for you here to consult:
    National Geographic Magazine article: Hunting the Mighty Python, May 1997
    Pages: 110-117 –available at multiple libraries or by subscription.

    Thank you for providing feedback on the show, and thanks for watching!

    The NG Explorer Team

  9. Specialtyserpent
    February 28, 2010, 2:44 am

    Thank you for taking the time to respond to our comments. I would like to address a few though:

    1- I also did see the previews for the program mentioning Hurricane Andrew as a factor for the snakes’s release. However, there was no mention whatsoever of Hurricane Andrew in the program that actually aired. Hurricane Andrew is not an urban legend, did indeed occurr in 1992 and undoubtedly destroyed facilities in South Florida housing or containing Burmese pythons. I’m curious to know what makes this an "urban legend"? Why is it that all pythons being captured in the Everglades can be traced back to only a few lineages?

    2- As stated earlier, the USGS map on the expansion of 9 species of boids is not a scientific document. It is based purely on speculation based on climate change, and climate change alone when there are numerous other factors that influence and limit an animal’s distribution that was ignored. The USGS report has been deemed "Unscientific" by an independent panel of 11 herpetologists and other scientists.

    3- Yes there was a blurb in the program about the reptile industry. However, it was minimal at best. Why couldn’t Natgeo report in more detail on the other side of the issue? Unless its primarily interest was to again sell sensationalism?

    4- Apparently Natgeo has just taken a position on the snake ban, since you are apparently acknowledging that there is a need for one when again the facts and science do not support or justify it.

    Thank You.

  10. Specialtyserpent
    February 28, 2010, 3:31 am

    Natgeo, regarding your second point further, Why then was the letter to Congress written by the aforementioned panel of 11 independent scientists deeming the USGS report as "Unscientific" never mentioned in the program? Why was the other side of the issue never reported in any detail at all? It is clear to me that Natgeo DID NOT utilize all available resources for the film, but rather cherry picked information for what is obviously one sided programming.