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New Salamander Fungus Found: Are More Pet Trade Regulations on the Way?

This is a discussion on New Salamander Fungus Found: Are More Pet Trade Regulations on the Way? within the Laws/Legality and Ethics forums, part of the Herpetological Science & Politics category; Hi, Frank Indiviglio here. Iím a herpetologist, zoologist, and book author, recently retired from a career spent at several zoos, ...

Laws/Legality and Ethics Discussion of the laws affecting herpetology around the world. Species legalities in different jurisdictions, import/export of animals, the legalities of species collection and the ethical considerations of all of the above.

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Old 6th November 2014   #1 (permalink)
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Default New Salamander Fungus Found: Are More Pet Trade Regulations on the Way?

Hi, Frank Indiviglio here. Iím a herpetologist, zoologist, and book author, recently retired from a career spent at several zoos, aquariums, and museums, including over20 years with the Bronx Zoo
As a herpetologist and animal keeper, Iíve long been interested in the emerging amphibian disease commonly known as Chytrid or BD (Batrachochytrium dendrobatitis); please see my other articles, linked below. Believed to be responsible for the recent extinctions ofover 200 frog species, this fungus remains a serious threat. In 2013, a related fungus, B. salamandrivorans, or BS, was identified. Since then, studies have revealed it to be as lethal as BD, and responsible for wiping-out the Netherlands wild Fire Salamanders. Once limited to Asian salamanders, some of which carry the fungus without becoming ill, BS seems to have found its way to Europe via the importation of Chinese Fire-Bellied Newts and other pet trade species. In order to stem the tide, the USA and the European Union are now considering import and sale regulations. Read the rest of this article here New Salamander Fungus Found: Are More Pet Trade Regulations on the Way?
Please also check out my posts on Twitter http://bitly.com/JP27Nj and Facebook http://on.fb.me/KckP1m

My Bio, with photos of animals Iíve been lucky enough to work with: That Pet Place Welcomes Frank Indiviglio | That Reptile Blog

Best Regards, Frank



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Old 18th November 2014   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Salamander Fungus Found: Are More Pet Trade Regulations on the Way?

I never thought we'd have to worry about the right to keep a salamander of all thinks but seems everything is under attack these days! If a test can reveal whether an animal can be shipped, I'd rather it just be required for interstate/import and have the prices raised on all the animals than a ban. Sometimes I think we'd be better off if you couldn't buy a newt for 10-20$ anyway



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Old 3rd December 2014   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Salamander Fungus Found: Are More Pet Trade Regulations on the Way?

As many of you will have read in recent months, and as Frank Indiviglio points out, the effect that BSal (Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans) has had on Fire Salamanders in the Netherlands is devastating, and the risk of this lethal disease spreading to other wild populations of newt and salamanders is very real. We've seen the wide-spread results that the spread of Bd (B. dendrobatitis) has had on frog populations around the world, and I'm sure that none of us wants to see a similar result if the newly-discovered BSal was to be accidentally introduced into wild populations, or into the hobbyist market in the US. Recent studies by An Martel et al (www.pnas.org/content/110/38/15325.full and www.sciencemag.org/content/346/6209/630) show that BSal is lethal in all species of European and North American species infected with the fungus.

The Amphibian Ark is joining with the IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group, the Amphibian Survival Alliance (ASA) and other wildlife conservation agencies to recommend that stricter regulations be enforced regarding the importation and testing of salamanders in the pet trade. We are well aware that this suggestion will not sit comfortably with some of you, but experience has shown that we all need to work cooperatively, and to be more proactive about the potential spread of BSal into the US. You can also read the letter from Amphibian Ark, the ASA, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Invasive Species Prevention, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Natural Areas Association to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, calling for urgent and immediate action to keen BSal out of the US.

We very much hope that you will continue to practice responsible pet ownership, and to support measures to keep wild and captive salamanders in the US safe from BSal. As we work with our partners to address the threats to wild populations we also want to help you keep your pets as safe as possible - you can find more information on the AArk web site. For a limited time only the AS0 is offering to test the first 500 swabs that they receive from pet salamanders and newts in the Contiguous US. You can sign up and the ASA will send you a free sample kit and let you know the results as soon as they have them.

Discussions involving zoos and aquariums, USFWS, the ASA and other groups are ongoing, so we can collectively come to some agreement on the best way to move forward, and to prevent the potential disastrous effect of BSal getting into wild populations of salamanders in the US.

Kevin Johnson, Amphibian Ark



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Old 4th December 2014   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Salamander Fungus Found: Are More Pet Trade Regulations on the Way?

I don't think you quite understand the severity of this situation. The trade of Asian salamanders and now it appears a few European species as well needs to be stopped altogether, at least for the time being. B.sal needs to be contained and the pet trade is it's only mode of transport to other countries including the US. Once this disease is introduced into an area it will likely only have extremely negative consequences for those salamanders present as well as the entire ecosystem (Refer to this paper on salamander biomass). We need to think about whats really important right now and in the future, and that is preserving biodiversity and preventing the 6th mass extinction.



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Old 4th December 2014   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Salamander Fungus Found: Are More Pet Trade Regulations on the Way?

I'm not sure hobbyist will be especially concerned about a import ban of say firebelly newts. It seems to be that a captive bred, tested population can meet the needs of the public (at inflated prices) and may result in a boom in sales for local suppliers and the higher price might result in a higher quality of purchaser who does a little more research. However, I think regulation is always superior to a ban. Figure out what needs to happen to make sure they don't have B.S when coming into the country and require that, even if the price tripples.



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Old 5th December 2014   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Salamander Fungus Found: Are More Pet Trade Regulations on the Way?

I still don't think you're quite getting it.



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Old 5th December 2014   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Salamander Fungus Found: Are More Pet Trade Regulations on the Way?

Something important to notice :
The second article : ďRecent introduction of a chytrid fungus endangers Western Palearctic salamandersĒ is worth reading in details, especially supplementary data.
The authors may well be right in their conclusions based on experiments and surveys on wild populations. Anyways, in the surveys, Bs was rarely found on captive specimens and never on pet trade samples. They could have found the fungus if its prevalence had been more than 1%. We can then infer the real prevalence is unknown but below this level. Will tests (if tests are made) be on a sufficient amount of animals to have a honest odd to find the fungus? A sample is only a sample and no test will be able to really detect the fungus each time it occurs.

To summarize :
Bs may be present at a low but sufficient level to infect local animals, but nevertheless be hard to detect.


KevinJ :keeping wild and captive salamanders in the US safe seems difficult because US have very large borders. Keeping safe whole American continent perhaps?



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Old 6th December 2014   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Salamander Fungus Found: Are More Pet Trade Regulations on the Way?

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Originally Posted by manderkeeper View Post
I'm not sure hobbyist will be especially concerned about a import ban of say firebelly newts..
Say yes to import ban on "Firebelly newts"!



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Old 7th December 2014   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Salamander Fungus Found: Are More Pet Trade Regulations on the Way?

One thing that bothers me is we are operating under the assumption that disease spread via the pet trade, but no one really knows how it happened. It could have arrived through landscape plants with animals in the soil or the bacteria simply in the soil or some other type of organic material. If that's the case, the ban would only give a false sense of security. I had a relative that worked at a factory. Tropical insects often arrived along with the raw materials but on occasion a reptile or amphibian would turn up. Although the pet trade is an easy target, the results of global trade mean possibilities for hitchhikers will be ever present. Salamanders and frogs are now in the Galapagos. Would they have us believe that there are even hobbyists on the islands, much less releasing animals that they wouldn't be able to get through security? This is not so much fun to talk about though, because it would mean admitting there are consequences to our modern way of life that cannot be blamed on a small group of people so easily written off.



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Old 7th December 2014   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Salamander Fungus Found: Are More Pet Trade Regulations on the Way?

[QUOTE=manderkeeper;434165]One thing that bothers me is we are operating under the assumption that disease spread via the pet trade, but no one really knows how it happened.

If that's true, Occams razor says it's the pet trade.



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Old 8th December 2014   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Salamander Fungus Found: Are More Pet Trade Regulations on the Way?

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If that's the case, the ban would only give a false sense of security.
Even if that is the case, stopping importation will still stop the horridness of it. These animals are getting captured from the wild in large numbers, imported in poor conditions - and if they are still alive by the time they get there - kept in usually poor conditions by a pet store and then a customer. There is really no reason to continue the trade even if it isn't the cause of spreading disease.



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Old 8th December 2014   #12 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Salamander Fungus Found: Are More Pet Trade Regulations on the Way?

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Originally Posted by manderkeeper View Post
One thing that bothers me is we are operating under the assumption that disease spread via the pet trade, but no one really knows how it happened.
Please read this paper. Mapping the Global Emergence of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, the Amphibian Chytrid Fungus

It is very clear that B. sal is very closely related to B.d. However, unlike B.d we actually have time to act and stop this disease before it appears (unless it already has) in naive areas like North and South America.

In the case of B.d, transmission is possible through directly infected amphibians (including those that appear to be unaffected but yet still carry it), water samples, and possibly migratory water birds. So yes, we do know how these diseases spread and the pet industry was and is highly involved in the movement of both B.d and B. sal.

Even if pet owners do not release their imported animals into the wild, this disease can still be spread to native amphibian populations through terrarium waste such as substrate and water, if not properly disposed of. But why even risk it? All it might take is one mistake or one careless person. There is absolutely no need to import/export salamanders right now or take them from the wild and doing so will only risk the annihilation of everything we say we believe in and say we are here to protect. But you can go ahead and say that this is taking away your rights or whatever, but what even gives you the right in the first place? As hobbyists, conservationists, naturalists, scientists, etc., we first have a responsibility to protect these animals in their native habitats. And in order to successfully do that, the animals have to come before ourselves and what we believe is endowed to us.



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Old 10th December 2014   #13 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Salamander Fungus Found: Are More Pet Trade Regulations on the Way?

I doubt first that we can protect them in their native habitats because the expanding human population, associated changes that come with it, and simple need for space and resources should eventually deplete the vast majority of suitable habitat. Second, I find it unlikely that the pet trade contributes significantly to the decline of any but the most already doomed species. Competition for resources generall limits the total number of species in an area when the habitat is suitable. Simply making a collection of what can be found in a certain point of time is unlikely to have any serious effect and any effects it did have would be highly localized. Think about hunting even something much larger and easier to observe like deer. We can hunt a huge number every year without depleting the source populations. The pet trade simply isn't big enough, but the Asian food market instead should be a larger concern. Many things have been eaten to oblivion, but as far as I know there are no wide ranging reptiles that have been collected to near extinction for the pet trade. I see collecting as a bit of boogey man to distract people from the real issues and threats. The biology professor I've spoken with gave me a lot of schooling on population dymanics which is a good thing because I used to have many of the same views shared here, but have come to realize that the evidence just doesn't support such conclusions. Some populations have been collected for decades with no signs of slowing down or obvious decline other than where habitat is destroyed.

Of course the disease is a real threat. It's harder to argue with that. I would of course support testing and I do believe the pet trade would be a better product if there were an incentive for people to breed the (now) low cost imports from disease free stock but remember everything we have in captivity starts off WC and we may need WC stocks in the future.



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Old 10th December 2014   #14 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Salamander Fungus Found: Are More Pet Trade Regulations on the Way?

So taking thousands of newts out of their habitat doesn't effect them? That doesn't quite make sense.
And like I said before, even if it didn't, you are still taking thousands of animals out of the wild and sticking them in a very bad environment, and pretty much dooming them. Why continue this practice? One source says "Over 20 million wild-caught amphibians are sold every year in the U.S alone." I am not sure how accurate this is, but even if you made it 1 million amphibians taken from the wild it would still be ridiculous.

Quote:
but remember everything we have in captivity starts off WC and we may need WC stocks in the future.
It is true they all started from WC animals. But all it really takes is one pair and a good owner to get a captive population started. Many species already have a great population in captivity, with people all over the world keeping and breeding them. To be quite honest, there isn't really a need to introduce any more species into captivity. There are already very many, and pretty much every variation one could want. And people are breeding them year after year, only making their captive population bigger. So, I really don't see a need for more WC stock. And even if we did, I would rather go to a place myself and collect the animals than buying them from the pet trade. Or I could ask the help of a friend ( like the ones on here ) to collect an animal for me. But I just don't see a need for further WC stock if the species is already breeding in captivity. That's my two cents. -Seth



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Old 10th December 2014   #15 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Salamander Fungus Found: Are More Pet Trade Regulations on the Way?

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So taking thousands of newts out of their habitat doesn't effect them? That doesn't quite make sense.
And like I said before, even if it didn't, you are still taking thousands of animals out of the wild and sticking them in a very bad environment, and pretty much dooming them. Why continue this practice? One source says "Over 20 million wild-caught amphibians are sold every year in the U.S alone." I am not sure how accurate this is, but even if you made it 1 million amphibians taken from the wild it would still be ridiculous.



It is true they all started from WC animals. But all it really takes is one pair and a good owner to get a captive population started. Many species already have a great population in captivity, with people all over the world keeping and breeding them. To be quite honest, there isn't really a need to introduce any more species into captivity. There are already very many, and pretty much every variation one could want. And people are breeding them year after year, only making their captive population bigger. So, I really don't see a need for more WC stock. And even if we did, I would rather go to a place myself and collect the animals than buying them from the pet trade. Or I could ask the help of a friend ( like the ones on here ) to collect an animal for me. But I just don't see a need for further WC stock if the species is already breeding in captivity. That's my two cents. -Seth
I completely agree with this. I would also like to say that, in regard to the fact that millions of wild caught amphibians are sold in the US every year, it is rediculous that any amphibians are taken from the wild full stop. Because quite frankly, there is absolutely no need for wild caught animals when we have such a wide array of species available captive bred.
A total ban on importing wild caught amphibians would be far from a bad thing.

Stuart



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Old 11th December 2014   #16 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Salamander Fungus Found: Are More Pet Trade Regulations on the Way?

Seth,

I absolutely agree that collecting one off specimens for a breeder or by the breeder directly would be far superior. In such a case, exact locality information would be available. However, I am not sure how such a practice would work. Even if you flew to Thailand and collected a salamander, without the exporters how would you get it back home?



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Old 12th December 2014   #17 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Salamander Fungus Found: Are More Pet Trade Regulations on the Way?

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Seth,

I absolutely agree that collecting one off specimens for a breeder or by the breeder directly would be far superior. In such a case, exact locality information would be available. However, I am not sure how such a practice would work. Even if you flew to Thailand and collected a salamander, without the exporters how would you get it back home?
It depends. If you collect it yourself from the wild and want to take it back to another county via aircraft then I am not sure. I don't keep up with regulations on importing or exporting amphibians. But I do know that people have shipped eggs from one country to another. So if I was going to have someone collect eggs for me they could potentially ship them to my country. However lots of species have already reached many countries - weather legally or not - and have good captive populations. So like I said before, I just don't think there is going to be much of a need for more WC animals to be introduced into the hobby.
By the way, I admire that you are willing to argue your opinions as you have, many people would not voice their opinions simply because it isn't the commonly excepted one. A variation in opinion is always good. -Seth



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Old 24th March 2015   #18 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Salamander Fungus Found: Are More Pet Trade Regulations on the Way?

Here is an interesting recent update to this topic:

http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/20...l-threat/?_r=0



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Old 25th March 2015   #19 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Salamander Fungus Found: Are More Pet Trade Regulations on the Way?

There's been a lot of press on the issue but I've not been able to find any word on which species will be added to the Lacey Act yet. Unfortunately, there's really no such thing as an import ban. Once added to the lacey act, they cannot cross state lines whether CB, wild caught, disease+- or otherwise.



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Old 30th March 2015   #20 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Salamander Fungus Found: Are More Pet Trade Regulations on the Way?

Hi Manderkeeper.
That's not entirely true. Lacey Act does indeed regulate interstate trade, and prohibits such when the laws of one or more state are violated during a transaction involving wildlife.

However, a big component of the the Lacey Act is regulating importation of potentially dangerous or injurious non-native species.

The argument being made in the article in the link is that banning importation of Asian salamander species could be a preventative measure to stop the spread of the fungus to the US. Since over a third of the salamanders in the world occur here, the ramifications of this fungus getting into our wild populations could be huge.

There is some evidence that at least one vector of the virulent strain of Bd (the frog fungus) that has now spread around the world was transport of frogs. Similarly, there is evidence that the White Nosed fungus (which is now decimating entire species of bats in North America) was accidentally transported here from Europe, where the bats appear to be immune.

One of the reasons I posted the link earlier was to stimulate discussion. It's safe to presume that most everyone on Caudata likes salamanders. This may be one of those times when the North American community needs to think hard about the weight of the interest in the hobby versus that of wild populations.



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