The Python Invasion Project: Repticon

Imagine an auditorium packed floor to ceiling with boxes full of some of the world's most feared snakes and reptiles: boa constrictors, pythons, tegus. Twice a year, that's the scene at the War Memorial Auditorium in Fort Lauderdale, as Repticon, the nation's largest reptile show, slithers into town for the legions of reptile enthusiasts in South Florida.

In the most recent show, we interviewed several breeders of exotic snakes and some of the authorities tasked with keeping people safe from them. "I'm tired of breeders getting a bad rap, and the python thing being sensationalized in the media," said breeder Adam Chesla. "Responsible breeders and pet owners are paying the price."

Chesla cross-breeds boas and other snakes to form unique patterns, and charges hundreds of dollars for the most unusual. He says he makes sure that people who buy the snakes know what they are getting into and are aware that there are ways to dispose of them responsibly if they want to.

Irresponsible pet owners who released invasive reptiles into the everglades over the last 30 years are partially responsible for the python invasion happening in the Everglades, explains Capt. Chuck "Big Country" Seifert, from Miami-Dade Fire Rescue's Venom Response Unit.

But Seifert said he believes the real trouble started when a breeding facility in southern Miami-Dade, near the Everglades, was destroyed by hurricane Andrew in 1992, and up to 900 pythons went missing.

"They were literally blown into the Everglades," said Seifert, who has appeared in National Geographic, The History Channel, Discovery and Animal Planet, among other networks.

After Hurricane Andrew, regulations for outdoor enclosures were tightened, he said.

We take viewers into Repticon in this sixth installment of The Python Invasion project, outtakes from production shoots of a documentary featured on MiamiHerald.com. The documentary will broadcast on WPBT2 later in the year.