Masi Sadaiyan and Vadivel Gopal belong to the Irula tribe in India and are highly skilled and experienced snake hunters. Such is their brilliance at the job they do, the State of Florida has recruited them to track down and capture Giant Burmese Pythons, whose numbers have swollen so much, they are forcing other species into extinction. Native animals such as rabbits, raccoons, alligators and deer are disappearing at alarming rates. Videos and photos of dead pythons with their bellies distended by the large animals have gone viral several times over the years.
The two men were brought in, along with two translators, to work with detection dogs earlier this month to track down and capture the giant snakes. So far, they’ve bagged 13 in less than two weeks. The effort is part of a series of what the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission calls “unique projects” to capture and kill the ever growing python menace in the area. The Irula are world-renowned for their snake-catching abilities. The traditional job of men in the tribe was snake and rat catcher.
Masi and Vadivel have been paid $68,888 for the assignment and have been flown to South Florida along with their translators from their home in southern India. They’ll stay in Florida through February, working in the field with University of Florida biologists and two python-detecting Labrador retrievers to find, capture and kill the snakes. However, their skills to track these giant slithering objects are so unique, they seem mysterious even to the native python hunters.
The project is the latest in a series of attempts to contain and eradicate the Burmese python. The snake is not native to Florida – although it is to India – but started showing up in the Everglades in the 1980s, probably after the release or escape of exotic pet snakes. In the past decade, their numbers have exploded to between 5,000 and 10,000, according to government estimates.