For Immediate Release, March 6, 2015
Contact: Collette Adkins, (651) 955-3821, email@example.com
Feds Ban Imports of Four Large Constrictor Snakes
Nonnative Species From Pet Trade Threaten Wildlife in Puerto Rico, Florida, Elsewhere
WASHINGTON— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced new rules making it illegal to import four species of large constrictor snakes or to sell them across state lines. By adding these exotic snakes to the list of “injurious” wildlife under the Lacey Act, the agency seeks to prevent widespread introduction of these nonnative snakes. The agency did not restrict the widely traded boa constrictor, even though it is displacing native reptiles in Puerto Rico and poses a threat to U.S. wildlife.
|Boa constrictor photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Jens Raschendorf. This photo is available for media use.
“These exotic snakes pose an unacceptable — and preventable — risk to our nation’s most treasured natural habitats,” said Collette Adkins, an attorney and biologist at the Center focusing on the protection of reptiles and amphibians. “Unfortunately, it appears that the agency caved to pressure from snake breeders in its decision not to restrict trade in the boa constrictor — a snake that is clearly damaging to U.S. wildlife.”
In 2010 scientists identified nine snakes posing an unacceptable risk of establishing invasive populations. Two years later the Service issued a final rule providing that only four of those nine species would be listed as “injurious” under the Lacey Act: Burmese pythons, yellow anacondas, and northern and southern African pythons. Today the Service announced that it will add four of the remaining five snakes — reticulated python, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, green anaconda and Beni anaconda — to the list. The agency refused to list the boa constrictor, which accounts for a substantial percentage of the trade in large, constrictor snakes.
After a decade of colonization in the Everglades, Burmese pythons have nearly wiped out populations of small and medium-sized native mammals — one study showed declines as high as 99 percent. Researchers further identified 25 species of birds in the stomachs of these invasive pythons in the Everglades, including four species of special concern in Florida and a wood stork, which is listed as federally endangered. Global warming may expand the region where nonnative snakes can survive and establish.
“The invasive Burmese python is destroying the Everglades ecosystem,” said Adkins. “That sad reality shows us that it’s absolutely necessary to prevent additional invasions of large constrictor snakes.”
Snake breeders opposed adding any snakes to the restricted list, arguing that the threat of invasion is limited to Burmese pythons in south Florida. Following pressure from this interest group, the agency did not include restrictions on the boa constrictor. Boa constrictors have established a population in western Puerto Rico and threaten several species of rare and endemic wildlife, including federally protected amphibians and reptiles like the coquí llanero, golden coquí, Puerto Rican crested toad and the Puerto Rican boa.
Last summer the Center submitted comments on the proposed rule that identified numerous scientific studies documenting the risk posed by exotic constrictor snakes. Approximately 30,000 members and supporters of the Center sent letters to Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell asking that the remaining five snake species be listed as injurious.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 825,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.