- The Washington Times - Friday, March 15, 2024

With the global quest for sustainable food sources becoming more urgent, scientists have zeroed in on new alternatives to traditional livestock — including snakes.

In a year-long study published in Scientific Reports, researchers investigated python farming potential in Southeast Asia, specifically inspecting two species, the reticulated and Burmese pythons. What stood out was the python’s rapid reproduction cycle compared to other farm animals, making it a contender in sustainable meat production.

Patrick Aust, a conservation specialist at People for Wildlife and co-author of the study, told ABC News that pythons offer unique qualities that can make them suitable for farming. 

“Pythons have an extreme biology and evolutionary slant toward extreme resource and energy efficiency,” Mr. Aust said, noting they are  effective “ambush predators” capable of preying on far larger animals and going long periods of time without eating.

The study meticulously documented the snakes’ diet, primarily consisting of wild-caught rodents and fishmeal, recording consistent growth  — up to 46 grams each day — over a year of observation. Female pythons, researchers discovered, grew faster than males.

The resilience of pythons is also noteworthy. Mr. Aust mentioned that during the COVID-19 pandemic, supply-chain disruptions led to culling of large numbers of chickens and pigs. By contrast, the pythons weathered food shortages and environmental challenges without harm, showcasing their capacity to endure extreme events.

“These animals are extremely good converters of food, particularly protein. They are specialists in making the most of very little,” Mr. Aust said. “We really are running out resources, while at the same time, the demand for high-quality nutrients is going up.”

• Joseph Curl can be reached at jcurl@washingtontimes.com.

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