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For Immediate Release, October 5, 2011

Contact:  Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681

Two Florida Species Declared Extinct

Endangered Species Review Too Late to Save South Florida Rainbow Snake, Florida Fairy Shrimp

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that two Florida species, the South Florida rainbow snake and the Florida fairy shrimp, have been determined to be extinct. The finding came in response to a petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity in 2010 seeking Endangered Species Act protection for the rainbow snake, fairy shrimp and more than 400 aquatic species in the southeastern United States. Last week the Service announced that 374 other freshwater species in the petition, including 114 in Florida, may warrant protection under Act. All of those species will now get an in-depth review.

“It’s heart-wrenching to learn that these two unique Florida species have been lost forever. Like most species that go extinct, these two were not protected under the Endangered Species Act, which is the most powerful tool we have for saving our nation’s plants and animals from disappearing,” said Tierra Curry, a conservation biologist with the Center.

The South Florida rainbow snake was known only from Fish Eating Creek, which flows into the west side of Lake Okeechobee. The beautiful snake was iridescent bluish-black with red stripes on its back and sides, red and yellow patches on its belly and throat, and a yellow chin. Adults were more than four feet long. It was last seen in 1952.

The Florida fairy shrimp was known from a single pond just south of Gainesville. The pond was destroyed by development, and the species hasn’t been detected elsewhere.

“The government has to determine quickly whether the 114 other Florida species it’s reviewing will get protection so that more of Florida’s heritage isn’t erased by extinction,” said Curry. “The wellbeing of human society is deeply linked to the health of the natural systems we need to sustain life. In the end, saving species will help save us.”

The southeastern United States is home to more unique species of freshwater animals than anywhere else in the world, including mussels, snails and crayfish. Tragically, many of the region’s animals have already been lost to extinction.

Earlier this year the Center reached a landmark legal settlement with the Fish and Wildlife Service to expedite protection decisions for 757 imperiled species across the country.

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