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Anyone read this about Baja herps?

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Posted by: dustyrhoads at Thu Jul 1 09:43:51 2010  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by dustyrhoads ]  

I recently picked up Lee Grismer's book, and there was a free excerpt from the introduction of the book already on the publisher's web site that's open to the public (so I don't feel bad including it here, since I just copied and pasted; doesn't seem to violate any TOS).

I thought that he makes some really good points below. My question is: Are any of the Baja herps in collections legally obtained (or rather, from legal founding stock)? Thanks. DR

Conservation and Commercialization

Conservation issues are a rapidly growing concern for government agencies in Mexico. Several biosphere reserves have been created in key peninsular areas, and all the islands within the Gulf of California and along Baja California's Pacific coast are now protected. Because of the high degree of both peninsular and insular endemism and the monetary value that unfortunately accompanies such phenomena, the commercial market for this region's herpetofauna has grown at a staggering rate over the last few years. Even though this commercialization was started by just a few notorious reptile collectors and dealers trafficking in illegal wildlife, it has now become a serious threat to many species in the region of study.

Mellink (1995) notes some of the negative environmental effects that illegal reptile collecting has had in Baja California. For example, certain areas of the Sierra Juárez and Sierra San Pedro Mártir have been heavily degraded by collectors breaking apart rock piles in search of California Mountain Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis zonata). Similar devastation can be seen along Mexican Highway 1 as it passes through rocky areas in northern Baja California (such as Cataviña and Jaraguay), where collectors are looking primarily for Rosy Boas (Lichanura trivirgata) and banded rock lizards (Petrosaurus). The sheer numbers of specimens that have been removed from some areas are also alarming. I was told by two Mexican nationals from La Paz that they helped one American reptile dealer collect over one thousand San Lucan Banded Rock Lizards (Petrosaurus thalassinus) in the Cape Region for over two years. Many of these were sold, and others provided the parental stock for illegal captive propagation.

Commercialization of this herpetofauna threatens insular endemics most of all. For example, the Isla Todos Santos Mountain Kingsnake (Lampropeltis herrerae) is confined to a single, tiny island off the coast of Ensenada. Mellink (1995) reported finding snake traps on the island baited with live mice, and Anglos with pillowcases turning over rocks. I know of one collector who took a gravid female off the island. The long-term potential problems of removing gravid individuals from populations of species with extremely limited gene pools is obvious. The same problems affect islands in the Gulf of California. For example, when I saw several species of endemic rattlesnakes appearing on reptile price lists from Florida, I became very concerned. I talked to a Mexican national who participated in the collection efforts of the American who shipped those reptiles to Florida, and he told me that nearly one hundred snakes were collected. I have found abandoned pitfall traps on several islands filled with dead animals because the person who set them never came back to close them up. Mellink provides many more examples.

Despite the sanctimonious claims of many dealers, breeders, and collectors, unregulated captive propagation of illegally obtained animals has done nothing, and will do nothing, to protect against the potential loss or local extirpation of Baja California or Gulf of California amphibians and reptiles. Additionally, as Mellink notes, many individuals from different populations are crossed to produce more commercially valuable color phases, thus creating individuals with genetic constitutions and color patterns that do not even occur in the wild. Furthermore, the commercialization of this herpetofauna not only has created its own market but also has resulted in the environmental degradation of many areas (Mellink 1995). When people see the outrageous prices for which some species sell and realize that they are only a few hours or days away from areas where these species can be collected, some develop an urge to be adventurous and go catch their own.

Besides the fact that overcollecting, destroying microhabitats, and smuggling reptiles across the border into the United States is considered an illegal act in both countries, it is environmentally and ethically unconscionable, and it constitutes an act of aggression against our ecosystems. So the next time you see a price list with protected species on it or attend a reptile expo where Baja California and Gulf of California herps are being paraded for sale in hundreds of little plastic boxes, remember that the original populations from which these specimens came were most likely illegally taken (Mellink 1995). Then ask yourself if you want to be a part of, or cater to, that level of our society that abuses wildlife for profit.


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>> Next Message:  RE: Anyone read this about Baja herps? - markg, Thu Jul 1 13:21:29 2010
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>> Next Message:  RE: Anyone read this about Baja herps? - chris_mcmartin, Fri Jul 2 22:11:38 2010
>> Next Message:  I have wondered about this for years - chrish, Wed Jul 7 00:05:26 2010
>> Next Message:  RE: Anyone read this about Baja herps? - RockRatt, Wed Jul 7 17:32:06 2010