POLL: Should the trade in rare lizard species be banned?

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Europe has moved to close a loophole that allows wildlife smugglers to trade in several lizard species, after revelations by the Guardian about the scale of the problem.

An EU proposal to strictly regulate the trade in arboreal alligator lizards (Abronia), backed by Mexico, will be debated at the Convention on international trade in (Cites) conference, which opens in Johannesburg this autumn.

Another EU motion supported by Vietnam would ban the buying and selling of psychedelic geckos (Cnemaspis psychedelica) while a separate Malaysian submission would bring earless monitor lizards (Lanthanotus borneensis) under Cites protection.

Blue alligator lizards are one of several species that, while protected in their home countries, may be sold legally in other countries. Photograph: Matthijs Kuijpers/Alamy

The lizards are protected species in their home countries but once they have been smuggled outside national borders, their sale may not be illegal because Cites has not listed them yet.

Sandra Altherr, the co-founder of the conservation group Pro Wildlife, whose reports put the issue on the political map, is confident the new proposals will be passed.

“This marks a significant step towards better protecting these species from exploitation for the pet trade,” she said. “While we appreciate the EU proposals though, it is obvious that the core problem still exists for other species that are only protected in their range states. The EU needs to adopt legislation to cover all nationally protected species – an equivalent to the US Lacey act.”

The Lacey Act, which has been in force since 1900, allows US authorities to prosecute wildlife smugglers for actions carried out in other countries.

European are thought to have had a devastating effect on the reptile species singled out for Cites protection, with the German Terraristika trade fair in Hamm singled out as a key forum for the .

At the show last September, the Guardian posed as a potential buyer and was offered lizards at risk of extinction – including earless monitor lizards and arboreal alligator lizards – at prices of up to €5,000 (£4,000) a pair.

“The Guardian’s coverage contributed greatly to raising awareness among conservation authorities about the damage that the international reptile trade does to those species,” Altherr said.

The EU’s proposal on psychedelic ’s notes that nine animals were advertised online for sale at the Terraristika fair. “The species [has] a low capacity to recover from over harvesting due to the small estimated population size,” the motion says.

The motion on arboreal alligator lizards (pdf) says that the are regularly sold at Germany’s national reptile fair in a trade that appears to be growing.

“Given the low reproduction rates of the species, their restricted distribution, loss of habitat and the international demand for the pet trade, we can consider that unregulated harvest from the wild of species could endanger their survival,” it says.

Other EU proposals at the Cites conference could see trade protection being offered to thresher sharks, barbary macaques and a variety of other reptiles and fish.

This article was first published by The Guardian on 05 May 2016.


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Jonathan Henry

Yes, you can choose to kill them by leaving them in an environment that will get destroyed by humans or you can choose to save them by reproducing them in captivity. No brainer.

Gérald Laert
Gérald Laert

If the environment is destroyed, we all die.

Merryeli Rodriguez

You want to fight the wrong battle. What needs to be done is a local level of those countries. Permits need to actually happen intead of been negated cause the authority doesn't know if it is a lizard or a pony. I am not kidding, they do not let you work with a species, even if legislation exists, because they do not know how to identify it! I would give a good example, look up Phrynosoma. they are not easy to keep, the need ants. In Mexico, no permits have been given to work with native Phrynosomas, but every market… Read more »

Ipo Vogel

Does it address whether or not these animals come from captive stock? I see nothing mentioned. It absolutely should not be illegal to trade in captive bred "rare" animals. Many of these species have been captive born and raised for generations, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. The pet and commercial trade of these animals is actually an excellent way to get more animals to reintroduce.

Merryeli Rodriguez

Captive breeding has make a lot of rare reptiles common. Do you know what a beared dragon is? Or a crested gecko? Beared dragons are one of the most common pets in the world. They all, pretty much, came from illegal animals. Now there is no need to even look at wild individuals as captive ones are produce by the millions. Crested geckos were thought to be extinct until 1994, this due to fire ants invading their islands. Then someone found some, took them out and… look at them now! They are one of the easiest and most common geckos… Read more »

Merryeli Rodriguez

What THE GUARDIAN didn't mentioned was that local authorities are corrupted, and uninform. Even if the country of origin has regulations for captive breeding to take place, more than half the time the permits are denny because authorites DO NOT KNOW HOW TO ID A SPECIES. Therefore, the only way of working with it is ilegal. Add that people kill animals thinking they are dangerous to them, while destrying little habitat that they have left. What good is to prohibit legal trade while logging companies, local people, mining companies, oil companies,etc, are destroying the habitats this animals live in? Why… Read more »

Leigh Lofgren

couldn't agree more

Bjorn Olesen

I agree what a stupid question.

Leigh Lofgren

What a stupid question. A rare lizard and you asking if we should stop the trade of them? Why is this trade going on and being allowed to continue?

Arlene Labbe

Rhetorical question, YES!!!

Michele Jankelow

What often amazes me on the vote pages is the simplicity of the questions! Should we kill, should we save! Frankly for me this is truly a no brainer! We cannot and should not go on and on destroying wildlife, wild places and violating all that is magnificent on this planet!

Kathleen Colley

It seems to me that the Terrastika Fair in Germany, should be targeted in order to stop the sale of endangered species from around the world. German wildlife activists should target their Government in order to close this loophole so that species from around the world are not able to bartered at this fair. Come on German wildlife warriors, let's put a stop to this exploitation of wildlife!