Reptiles are cold-blooded vertebrates that diverged from amphibians about 340 million years ago. There are two characteristics that distinguished early reptiles from amphibians and enabled them to be successful living on land -- scales and the ability to lay eggs with a hard shell. Scales help protect reptiles from injury and losing body moisture. Hard-shell eggs allow reptiles to reproduce without requiring water and provide a protective environment in which the embryo can develop (About.com).
- There are about 8,000 species of known reptiles alive today.
- In many reptiles, the temperature of the environment in which they are laid and incubated determines the sex of the young.
- Some of the largest reptiles alive today include the Leatherback turtle, the Komodo dragon, and the saltwater crocodile (About.com).
The Wildlife Waystation is home to many reptiles including pythons monitors, iguanas, alligators, boas and tortoises. Some were “found,” but almost all
were someone’s “pet”. Like our exotic birds, these reptiles now have a permanent home.
Captive exotics released into the wild threaten ecosystems
Large constrictor snakes such as pythons and boa constrictors are powerful wild animals capable of killing an adult human, yet they are commonly and legally kept as "pets" throughout the United States. "Since the 1990’s, Burmese pythons and other exotic animals have been released into the Florida Everglades (Sart). They have either been released by owners, escaped from private owners or escaped from facilities impacted by hurricanes. It is estimated that up to 100,000 pythons are living in the Everglades.
Since they have no predators, they have seriously impacted their delicate ecosystem. Burmese pythons are popular and legal to own in the United States. It is estimated that "between the years 2000 and 2006, around 150,000 of these snakes were imported into the U.S. -- with hatchlings selling for as little as $20." (Sart). They may be fun to own until they grow to 8 ft., 10 ft., or 15 ft. in length. In Florida, many are “simply” released into the Everglades. While Florida has the most serious problem, unwanted reptiles exist throughout the United States and there are numerous sanctuaries who are trying to provide for them.
- About.com. "10 facts about reptiles." http://animals.about.com/od/reptiles/a/tenfactsreptiles.htm
- Humane Society of the United States. "Dangerous exotic pets: Snakes."www.humanesociety.org/issues/exotic_pets/facts/dangerous-exotic-pets-constrictor-snakes.html. May 4, 2014.
- Humane Society of the United States. "Constrictor snake incidents."www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/wildlife/captive/captive-constrictor-snake-incidents.pdf. 2013.
- National Park Service. "Burmese Pythons."www.nps.gov/ever/learn/nature/burmesepythonsintro.htm. 2015.
- Palermo, Elizabeth. Live Science. "Snake in the Grass! Huge Everglades Python Shows Invasive Issue."
www.livescience.com/51716-giant-burmese-python-florida-2015.html. July 31, 2015.
- Sart, Verita. "Why pythons are invading Florida's everglades." http://scribol.com/environment/why-pythons-are-invading-floridas-everglades.