Gold Coast police officers have unwittingly released a South American boa constrictor into the wild after they mistook the creature for a native variety of snake. It turns out the boa constrictor may eventually grow up to four metres long – a worrying development for local law enforcement!
Though the police cannot explain their actions, they have pointed to a thriving black market trade that is responsible for the illegal importation of such exotic creatures. Each and every year, thousands of animals are illegally procured and introduced into the Australian ecosystem. Analysts and researchers say it is a significant problem.
“There is a black market trade in illegal reptiles and these snakes are smuggled in either as eggs or as live snakes,” Duncan Swan, of Biosecurity Queensland, told the ABC. “Boa constrictors and American corn snakes are the two main reptiles we see in the illegal snake trade. We find these snakes maybe once year. It’s not common but we do see them.”
Mr. Swan says recent case studies prove the potential dangers of hostile species breeding in tropical areas. “Hopefully it can’t breed, but the reality is the more these snakes are out there, the more potential there is that they could establish a population,” Mr. Swan explained. “Florida has a very similar environment to southeast Queensland, and over there they don’t have the legal controls we have. They have 47 exotic reptiles established in the wild there, which is causing huge environmental harm. We’re very focused on trying to prevent that from happening here.”
Despite the urgency of the search, more than a dozen bio-security officers have been unable to locate the reptile. Line searches conducted at the Spit (near where the creature was released) have resulted in very little. In fact, a thermal imaging device has even been employed to gain an advantage over the slithering snake.
Mr. Swan said the searching will continue, but that the authority’s resources are being stretched thin. “That’s the challenge, isn’t it. We can’t put resources into this indefinitely,” he told the ABC.
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