I can envision it now as the next reality show. The problem — it is reality in Florida. The solution: The 2013 Python Challenge. But is a hunt enough to get the job done? And how can such a niche audience be reached and utilized?
Pythons are not native to our country and have become an out of control invasive species that is destroying local species, even alligators. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, working with the University of Florida Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, has created the 2013 Python Challenge, which offers prizes for the largest snake and for the most snakes captured.
Beyond selling branded t-shirts and offering cash incentives, does the Python Challenge have the potential for commercialization? It certainly isn’t a spectator sport, so you won’t be seeing grandstands being built in the Everglades. About a third of all Americans suffer from Ophidiophobia — fear of snakes — greatly reducing the potential following. Sponsors may find the potential ROI thin and elusive — much like the snake itself.
Still, Americans like the thrill of the hunt of a potentially dangerous predator. They have a fascination with movies like Anaconda and Snakes on a Plane that illustrate the point. And, the hunt drew over 400 contestants from 17 states, so it has generated interest from hunters.
So far, the results have been disappointing according to organizers who have blamed the mild weather for a lack of sightings. If the hunt isn’t successful, the University of Florida may need to think about changing its mascot from the Gators to the Pythons.
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