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Reptile & Amphibian Conservation – Protection Sought for 53 US Natives

San Bernardino Ringneck SnakeHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  I’ve recently posted information concerning a petition that seeks Endangered Species Act protection for 53 US herps.  Many readers applauded the news, but some were concerned about potential limitations on their ability to keep protected species.  As they correctly pointed out, responsible pet owners have made important contributions to the conservation of many species (please see article below).  In the course of my work as a zoologist, I’ve often dealt with federal, state and international permits, and continue to assist zoos with related issues.  Today I’d like to explain a bit more about this proposal, which was championed by the Center for Biological Diversity, and how it may impact target species in the wild and captivity.

The ESA: Pros and Cons for Herp Keepers

Although federal red tape complicates life for private herp owners, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) remains our nation’s most powerful conservation tool.  A recent study revealed that the ESA is 99% effective in preventing extinctions…once a species is listed, its survival is almost guaranteed.  Benefits to such species extend beyond permit requirements – habitat protection, research funds, compilation of recovery plans and other possibilities arise.  This post lists frequently asked questions concerning the ESA. Read More »

Giant Turtles – Working with the World’s Largest Freshwater Species

Pygmy Goose JuvenileHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Turtle enthusiasts seem always to remain interested in even the commonest species. I’ve worked with world-renowned herpetologists who keep Sliders and private breeders who care for 2,000+ turtles (not a misprint!) yet find a place for Common Snappers.  I’m the same way…as I write, I’m watched by a Stinkpot that I acquired in 1969.  Yet there’s no denying the allure of 4 foot-long Giant Softshells, 200+ lb. Alligator Snappers, massive Painted River Terrapins and other rare giants like the turtle I’m holding in this photo (a Mata Mata rescued from a food market; the largest I’ve seen, perhaps a record). Today I’d like to share some experiences I’ve been lucky enough to have had with these and others. Don’t miss the chance to visit collections housing these amazing creatures; volunteer opportunities with field research programs are also sometimes available.

In 1985, while a reptile keeper at the Bronx Zoo, the opening of a 77,000 gallon Asian river exhibit (at Jungle World), allowed us to work with large turtles on a grand scale. Another unique opportunity came in 1997, with the seizure of nearly 10,000 turtles in Guangzhou, China. Many were sent to the USA, where I and others helped to place them in private and public collections.  Read More »

Reptile Hobbyists – Helping or Hindering Reptile and Amphibian Conservation?

 Rhinoclemmys pulcherrima manniHello, Frank Indiviglio here.While over-collection and poorly-prepared pet keepers have certainly led to declines in wild populations of some species, private hobbyists have also contributed immensely to the conservation of amphibians, invertebrates and reptiles (as well as fishes, birds and mammals).  This is especially true of those animals which zoos lack the interest or space to maintain…often the very creatures most favored by private keepers.

The Asian Turtle Crisis

A lack of funds and space in zoos led the establishment of the Turtle Survival Alliance, the largest turtle rescue effort ever launched.  The Alliance was organized in response to unprecedented declines in freshwater turtle populations throughout Asia – a phenomenon that has come to be known as the Asian Turtle Crisis. 

Soon after the group was formed, I traveled to Floridain the company of private and professional turtle enthusiasts to help rehabilitate and house nearly 10,000 turtles confiscated in China; many of the private sector people I met there now participate in rehabilitation and breeding initiatives in cooperation with zoos and museums. Read More »

Amphibian News – Rare Frogs Breed in Captivity, Lost Species Found

Haitian LandscapeHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Frogs and frog enthusiasts have much to celebrate these days.  The endangered Lake Titicaca Frog, Telmatobius culeus, has reproduced in captivity, and 6 Haitian frogs, lost to science for decades, have been found.

Lake Titicaca’s Aquatic Giant

The huge, skin-breathing, cold-adapted Lake Titicaca Frog ranks as one of the world’s strangest amphibians.  Known only from this lake, which straddles the Peru-Bolivia border at 12,500 feet above sea level, the unique creature is threatened by the food trade and pollution.

I had the good fortune to work with what was, at the time, the only Lake Titicaca Frogs in captivity.  Despite nearly 2 decades of trials, I and my co-workers failed to raise the few tadpoles that were produced (please see article below).  However, Peru’s Huachipa Zoo, in association with the Denver Zoo, has announced that 5 apparently healthy tadpoles are now being reared.  A museum in Bolivia has been successful in breeding a close relative, the equally-rare Water Frog, Telmatobius hintoni. Read More »

Conservation Update – The Bizarre, Skin-Breathing Lake Titicaca Frog

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.   The huge, aquatic, baggy-skinned Lake Titicaca Frog (Telmatobius culeus) has fascinated me since childhood, when I first came upon a group at the Bronx Zoo.  I returned again and again to stare as the unusual beasts – largest of the world’s aquatic frogs – did “push-ups” at the bottom of their cold aquarium (they breathe largely through their loose skin, and rock back and forth in order to increase the area exposed to the water).  Because the frogs lived for so long – nearly 30 years in one case – I was able to work with same individuals I had earlier observed once I began my zoo-keeping career. Read More »

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