Team in Florida captures huge python using tracking devices

This handout photograph, obtained April 7, 2019 courtesy of the Big Cypress National Preserve, shows a team of hunters with the Big Cypress National Preserve holding a female python measuring over 17 feet in length and weighing 140 pounds with 73 developing eggs. (AFP)
Updated 08 April 2019
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Team in Florida captures huge python using tracking devices

  • With anywhere from 30,000 to 300,000 pythons now in southern Florida, the US Interior Department banned their importation in 2012

MIAMI: Researchers in Florida using a new approach to combating a destructive invasion by enormous pythons have captured one of the biggest ever, a 17-foot-long (5.2 meters) specimen large enough to eat a deer, they said.
The female snake is longer than a one-story building is high, and weighs 140 pounds (64 kilograms).
It is one of the biggest pythons ever caught in southern Florida, according to a post on the Facebook page of the Big Cypress National Preserve.
The researchers found the enormous reptile by using male pythons fitted with radio transmitters, allowing them to track the male and locate breeding females, according to the post.
“The team not only removes the invasive snakes, but collects data for research, develops new removal tools and learns how the pythons are using the preserve,” the park said.
The 17-footer was found to contain 73 developing eggs. The reptiles have no natural predators in Florida and multiply rapidly, posing “significant threats to native wildlife,” the researchers said.
The snakes can decimate native wildlife, killing small animals like rabbits, birds and opossums, and even eating creatures as large as alligators and adult deer.
The Burmese python is considered an invasive species since it first appeared in the area in the 1980s.
With anywhere from 30,000 to 300,000 pythons now in southern Florida, the US Interior Department banned their importation in 2012.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has sponsored hunting programs to target the reptiles.
But such efforts have failed to slow their spread, and the commission in 2017 held hearings around the state to seek creative ideas for containing the monstrous creatures.
Among the ideas to emerge: introducing snake-killing Australian terrier dogs, stringing barbed wire around trees to protect birds, or using drones fitted with infrared sensors to conduct aerial surveillance.
Another idea — introducing mongooses, which are famed in Asia for their ability to kill cobras — came from one Victoria Olson of Fort Lauderdale.
“They have been successful in Puerto Rico & The US Virgin Islands to eradicate snakes and yes, they can kill a python,” she said, according to the Sun-Sentinel newspaper of Fort Lauderdale.
Pythons are not known as being particularly brainy. Since some have choked to death on golf balls they thought were eggs, one man suggested setting out hundreds of fake eggs.
Asked about such ideas, a state wildlife spokeswoman noted diplomatically that public input is greatly valued.
But, she told the Sun-Sentinel, “we want to give each suggestion the time for evaluation it deserves.”


Game of Thrones reaches its end, with one or two shocks left

Updated 20 May 2019
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Game of Thrones reaches its end, with one or two shocks left

  • The last episode of the medieval fantasy based on the novels of George R.R. Martin ran roughly an hour and 20 minutes
  • The series had become the cornerstone of HBO’s primetime offerings, but its final season was also its most divisive

Warning: This story contains spoilers for the final episode of “Game of Thrones.”
After eight seasons and 73 episodes, HBO’s long-running smash series, “Game of Thrones,” wrapped up on Sunday, with one more shocking demise and an unlikely character named as king.
The last episode of the medieval fantasy based on the novels of George R.R. Martin ran roughly an hour and 20 minutes to conclude the storyline of more than a dozen characters and intertwining plots.
The fierce competition for the fictional Iron Throne — the seat for the show’s ruler, made of hundreds of swords — ended with a death and an unexpected choice to rule the fictional kingdom of Westeros.
The series had become the cornerstone of HBO’s primetime offerings, but its final season was also its most divisive, with both fans and critics finding specific plot twists, particularly the handling of one primary character, troubling.
HBO says the record-breaking final season drew 43 million viewers on average for each episode in the United States alone, an increase of 10 million over Season 7 in 2017.
Most notable in fans’ criticism was the malevolent turn by Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen, the “Dragon Queen,” who used her dragon to lay waste to the show’s fictional capital after her enemies had surrendered.
The move angered fans, as the episode, titled “The Bells,” now garners the weakest ratings of all episodes in the eight-season run on Rottentomatoes.com, which aggregates critics’ reviews.
Brutal acts by Clarke’s character in previous seasons were similar to those of other leaders, but many viewers saw the decision to kill tens of thousands of innocent people as too drastic, based on her previous actions.
The final episode features her death at the hands of Jon Snow, her lover (and nephew, among numerous incestuous relationships portrayed), played by Kit Harington, who kills her, fearing her tyranny merely mirrors that of predecessors.
Her last living dragon then burns the Iron Throne, melting it down with his fiery breath.
Without a ruler, numerous members of the show’s noble houses eventually make an unexpected choice of king, settling on Brandon Stark, played by Isaac Hempstead Wright.
In the premiere episode in 2011, Brandon was pushed from a high tower, crippling him, but awakening mystical powers that eventually allowed him to see the past and the future.
Some critics viewed the Sunday episode’s choice as odd, since Stark’s abilities implied he foresaw the events, including the deaths of thousands, that would leave him ruler.
“He’s got the whole history of Westeros stockpiled in his head, so how is he going to be able to concentrate on running a kingdom?” wrote Rebecca Patton on Bustle.com.
From its ragged beginnings — its original pilot was never aired, instead undergoing substantial re-shoots and recasting of several characters — the series became a cultural phenomenon.
Its budgets grew, with the last season’s cost running as high as $15 million per episode, Variety says. It also won numerous primetime television Emmy Awards, including three for “Best Drama.”
It became known for unexpected, nerve-wracking moments, including the first season’s death of Eddard Stark, the nobleman played by Sean Bean, highlighted in a marketing campaign, and Season 3’s “Red Wedding,” a massacre in fictional wars that author Martin based on medieval Scottish history.
HBO, owned by AT&T’s WarnerMedia, is already planning a prequel series, set thousands of years earlier, while creators Dan Weiss and David Benioff are scheduled to make the next series of “Star Wars” films.