Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Naples Zoo expand partnership to research Burmese pythons

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Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Naples Zoo expand partnership to research Burmese pythons

Naples Zoo to donate $75,000 toward Conservancy’s python research program

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida and Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens established a partnership to advance Burmese python research and education in Southwest Florida.

The two longtime neighbors on the Gordon River Greenway in Naples will study the impact of Burmese pythons on native wildlife. The Zoo has committed $75,000 over the next three years to fund the Conservancy’s research initiatives.

“This is a very rare partnership,” said Rob Moher, president and CEO of the Conservancy. “We are extremely grateful to have a nonprofit supporting another nonprofit with significant funding.”

Since 2013, the Conservancy’s research team, led by environmental science project manager Ian Bartoszek, and its research partners have been studying Burmese python biology and behavior in Southwest Florida, using this information to develop a database and management strategies to control this invasive species. It’s estimated that thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of Burmese pythons are living in Florida, predominantly breeding in Collier, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

“This partnership gives the Conservancy a great opportunity to advance our research, and through the Naples Zoo, we reach more people in the community on ways to protect our native wildlife,” Moher said. “It’s a partnership between two neighboring organizations that share a common appreciation for wildlife protection and education.”

Naples Zoo recently added an exhibit showcasing the Burmese python and its impact on Southwest Florida. The Conservancy and Zoo representatives collaborated to create key messages for display in Naples Zoo’s exhibit and its popular daily zookeeper talks.

“It is crucial to support these science-based efforts to protect our native wildlife,” said Jack Mulvena, Naples Zoo president and CEO. “Ian and his team have spent years both removing this threat to local animals as well as uncovering ways to address this threat. This collaboration expands the educational outreach of this program to the hundreds of thousands of guests who visit Naples Zoo annually.”

Burmese pythons pose an extreme threat to our ecosystem, and over the past decade, they’ve become an apex predator competing with native wildlife for territory and food. Burmese pythons are destroying the natural balance in the Florida Everglades. The organizations say this expanded partnership is another step toward finding solutions to this invasive problem.

Conservancy biologists have been capturing adult pythons and surgically implanting a radio transmitter, then releasing these sentinel snakes back into the wild. From there, the snakes lead researchers to breeding sites where female pythons are captured and eggs are removed, thus inhibiting the invasive species from its rapid reproduction rate. To date, Conservancy teams have removed upwards of 10,000 pounds of python and 3,000 developing eggs.

Conservancy biologists have observed females with 12 to 95 developing eggs. By breaking up breeding cycles, the Conservancy is able to keep thousands of future pythons from eating native wildlife.

Some of the Conservancy’s research collaborators include Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, the U.S. Geological Survey and four colleges: Davidson University, Denison University, James Madison University and the University of Florida.

About Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens
Accredited as both a zoo and botanical garden, Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens is an award-winning charitable 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization reaching over 350,000 guests a year with its conservation and education mission. The Zoo cares for rare flora and fauna here and around the world. Located at 1590 Goodlette-Frank Road in Naples, the Zoo is open seven days a week throughout the year, except for closures on Thanksgiving and Christmas. For more information, please visit NaplesZoo.org or call 239-262-5409.

About the Conservancy of Southwest Florida
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is a not-for-profit environmental protection organization with a 50-year history focused on the issues impacting the water, land wildlife and future of Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Conservancy accomplishes this mission through the combined efforts of its experts in the areas of environmental science, policy, education and wildlife rehabilitation. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida, world-class Nature Center and von Arx Wildlife Hospital are headquartered in Naples, Florida, 1495 Smith Preserve Way, south of the Naples Zoo off Goodlette-Frank Road. Learn more about the Conservancy’s work and how to support the quality of life in Southwest Florida www.conservancy.org.