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Salamanders and Bsal

Below is a posting from last week in the Unified Agenda by the Department of the Interior and FWS regarding salamander chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal or Bs). The Unified Agenda publishes significant regulatory actions that agencies expect to tackle. Federal agencies are required to publish agendas of regulatory and deregulatory activities.

Title: Injurious Wildlife Species; Listing Salamanders Due to Risk of Salamander Chytrid Fungus

Abstract: We will evaluate the Order Caudata to determine which salamander species should be listed as injurious to prevent the risk of introduction into the United States of Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans [Bsal], a fungus that causes fatal infections in European salamanders. The fungus affects only salamanders and is not yet known to be found in the United States.

An import ban has been requested, as well as quarantine/testing/treatment protocols. If you missed it, please read the USARK newsletter about Bsal at the bottom of this newsletter or at www.us4.campaign-archive1.com/?u=d7e8c81109173978c4240862c&id=2a51d02304.

Salamander Information Request

USARK needs preliminary data on the domestic salamander trade. For all U.S. breeders and businesses dealing with salamanders, please send an email to contact@USARK.org with the subject line "Salamanders." We'll send you a simple form that will only take a few minutes to complete.

Since an integrated approach to conservation issues and maintaining ecological integrity are vital to USARK's mission, we are concerned with the chytrid threat and will certainly work to prevent harm to native wildlife and captive populations.

Constrictor Preliminary Injunction

USARK members who will be shipping reticulated pythons or green anacondas must send an email to Contact@USARK.org with the subject line "Injunction." If you have already contacted us, DO NOT send another email. We will respond shortly if we have not yet.

The injunction only applies to those who were members before April 8, 2015 and it excludes shipping into Texas and Florida. The limitation to USARK members was suggested by FWS in its 5/15/15 brief (viewable at www.usark.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Dkt-No-54-Def-Supp-Brief-on-PI.pdf). Please do not send previously answered questions to USARK. Answers can be found at the below link.

Read this post before emailing USARK: www.usark.org/2015-blog/7182/

Egyptian Tortoise ESA listing
Deadline to comment June 9

FWS has been petitioned by Friends of Animals to list the Egyptian, or Kleinmann's, tortoise (Testudo kleinmanni) as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. All information can be found at www.usark.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Egyptian-Tortoise-ESA-4.10.15.pdf (see page 3).

The comment deadline is June 9. Comments can be made by clicking "Submit a Formal Comment" at www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/04/10/2015-07837/endangered-and-threatened-wildlife-and-plants-90-day-findings-on-10-petitions. A breakdown on data requested can be found on page 1 and 2 under "Request for Information" at the link (www.usark.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Egyptian-Tortoise-ESA-4.10.15.pdf).

Listing species under ESA without consideration for domestically-bred populations can end genetic diversity and the future of these animals being bred. This species, as well as the recently petitioned Spider tortoises, are no longer imported into the U.S. and are protected under CITES and other regulations in their home ranges. ESA can be very effective for native species, but can actually be harmful for non-native species. Without the ability to move animal across state lines because it is now illegal, captive breeding efforts by dedicated herpetologists and accredited institutions are often ended. This may occur due to inability of getting proper sex ratios or attaining proper genetic diversity.

USARK fully supports conservation efforts. In an age when habitat destruction, human overpopulation and pollution are by far the main factors leading to the extinction of species, captive populations must be recognized as these species may have no suitable or safe home habitat left.

Previously listed in Agenda and included in Spring 2015 Agenda

The two below announcements also appeared in the 2015 Spring Unified Agenda. They were previously posted in the 2014 Fall Agenda.

Below is an entry stating that FWS may revise the procedure for listing species as injurious under the Lacey Act. By FWS definition (which has been challenged by USARK in our federal lawsuit), an injurious listing bans importation as well as interstate transportation/commerce for listed species.

Title: Injurious Wildlife Species; Making Injurious Wildlife Determinations Under the Lacey Act

Abstract: The injurious wildlife provisions of the Lacey Act help us prevent and manage introductions of invasive species. We add species to the list of injurious wildlife to prevent their introduction into or establishment within the United States. Species listed as injurious (including their gametes and viable eggs) must not be imported into the United States or transported between the continental United States, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or any territory or possession of the United States by any means without a permit issued by the Service. We propose to revise our regulations for listing species as injurious in order to enhance the species evaluation process and enable more efficient and effective decisions that will help prevent the introduction and spread of injurious wildlife. As under current authorization, only nondomesticated species will continue to be evaluated for listing.

FWS announced that they will revise the regulations for importing, exporting and transporting wildlife. There may be changes to these processes and fees involved. USARK will be monitoring this issue, as well, and will provide updates as they are available.

Title: Importation, Exportation, and Transportation of Wildlife

Abstract: We propose to rewrite a substantial portion of our regulations for importation, exportation, and transportation of wildlife. We will propose changes to the port structure and inspection fees. We will propose to make the regulations easier to understand through the use of simpler language, format changes, and tables.

Proposed Salamander Import Moratorium (Previous Newsletter)

Following a scientific paper released at the end of October by A. Martel et al., there has been activity in D.C. by environmental groups for a temporary moratorium (delay or suspension of an activity) on all salamander imports (captive-bred and wild-caught) into the U.S. These groups include Amphibian Survival Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and others. The mentioned paper can be retrieved at www.sciencemag.org/content/346/6209/630.full?sid=3bba54ea-15a5-4148-bf85-67b7499a8338.The study discusses a newly-described chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal or Bs), and the potential threat of this fungus affecting native salamanders in the U.S. Bsal appears to be salamander specific. While the chytrid fungus is not new, the chytrid threat has been elevating in recent years, even affecting very isolated amphibian populations lacking intrusion from humans and modern development.

Bsal was found on a 150-year-old museum specimen of an Asian newt after research began. Genetic testing has shown that chytrid fungus has been lurking for 30 million years. While some species are not affected by chytrid, others die if infected. Some species can also be carriers.

A protocol using antimicrobial compounds to prevent the spread of chytrid and other pathogens, as well as swab testing to assure chytrid is not present, at minimum, are being suggested. Another proposal is a certification program based on verified clean sources, reliable testing, treatment or quarantine. Voluntary measures by live animal importers and information/education campaigns will certainly be viewed favorably.Since the U.S. has the highest Caudate (scientific order, also called Urodela, which includes salamanders, newts, mudpuppies, etc.) diversity of any country at around 200 species, the scientific, conservation and pet herp communities are certainly concerned regarding this issue. It has been shown that animals infected with Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) can be cured of the disease in captivity. If this can be proven for animals infected with Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, measures could be incorporated to certify healthy animals, including preventative treatments by the exporters.

Since an integrated approach to conservation issues and maintaining ecological integrity are vital to USARK's mission, we are concerned with the chytrid threat and will certainly work to prevent harm to native wildlife and captive populations. We will provide updates as they become available.

Frequently Asked Questions and Lawsuit/Constrictor Rule Timeline
If you missed or have not yet read USARK's last newsletter filled with information and answers to questions regarding this issue, you can read it at www.usark.org/2015-blog/7129.Please take the time to view this and share the information.

Donate to the USARK Legal Defense Fund

Information for making donations online and via check/money order can be found at www.usark.org/reptile-defense-fund-2/. You can make one-time, weekly, monthly or annual donations. You can also include a message that will be posted on the Legal Defense Fund Donor Wall at www.usark.org/usark-announcement/reptile-defense-donor-wall/ for all to see. You can even choose to make your donation or donation amount anonymous. Thanks for your support as we battle FWS to restore the freedoms of the Reptile Nation.

Join RAACA 2.0 Today!

There is a new anytime RAACA! Check out the format for listing auctions to benefit USARK via RAACA USARK Auctions at www.facebook.com/groups/1623588901209232/. These auctions will allow donations at any time and not just during fundraiser events. Anyone can bid, donate and support the Reptile Nation!The new RAACA USARK Auctions have raised over $2,600. Thank you, RAACA, Jordan, Tammy, Houssam, Christine, donors and all the admins in this group!

Article written by USARK