The Tarantula Keepers Coalition Announces Statement from USFWS Regarding “Contraband” Species within Tarantula Hobby


Tarantula Keepers Coalition

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Please see update related to this release: TKC Information Update

Bethpage, NY. (March 5, 2019) The Tarantula Keepers Coalition (TKC), a registered non-profit organization dedicated to representing the interests of U.S. breeders of tarantulas and other arthropods. The organization announced today their recent possession of an official statement from the United States Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS). “This is solid proof that USFWS is backing the opinion we previously announced,” states Garred Martin, one of the TKC directors. “We can now confidently move forward providing guidance to responsible breeders and keepers. The TKC thanks the hobbyist who sought their own answers and brought them to us to share with the community. ”

The law in question, the Lacey Act, requires U.S. citizens to comply with laws enacted in foreign countries, related to flora and fauna endemic to those countries. Brazil has made it known that they have not exported any species of tarantula for commercial purpose therefore all specimens removed from Brazil were done so illegally.

The statement was obtained from a concerned hobbyist who wishes to remain anonymous at this time. An inquiry and multiple follow-ups were made to the FWS regarding the legality of Brazilian species within the United States. The FWS response was as follows:

“Thank you for your inquiry regarding the purchase of Brazilian tarantulas.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s mission is, working with others, to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

The possession and domestic or international trade of illegally imported specimens is prohibited. In addition, any possession or sale of offspring of illegal specimens is also considered illegal.  A specimen that has been traded contrary to foreign government law becomes contraband at the time it enters the jurisdiction of the United States. If such a specimen makes its way into the United States, the individual or business holding or having control of the specimen has no custodial or property rights to the specimen and therefore, no right to possess, transfer, breed or propagate such specimens.

Therefore, the possession, sale or, purchase of Brazilian tarantulas imported contrary to Brazilian government law, or their offspring, is illegal [emphasis by FWS].

Thank you for your cooperation in complying with our regulations that help protect fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats.  Please feel free to respond to this message with any further inquiries that you may have regarding this matter.”

During further follow-up, the FSW stated, “A specimen that has been traded contrary to any foreign government law becomes contraband at the time it enters the jurisdiction of the United States.”

Therefore, if a species is endemic to multiple countries, it is the responsibility of breeders and keepers to confirm it (or its parent) was not taken from a country which prohibits its exportation. The FWS encouraged interested parties to also refer to CITES.

The FWS was asked to provide a list of species to which breeders and consumers could refer to remain lawful. In response, the FWS emphasized that it is the individual breeder and keeper’s responsibility to research the lineage of their own specimens to ensure it is not in violation of the Lacey Act.

Although unable to provide a list, the FWS did agree to officially confirm specific common pet species as “contraband” when specifically asked. Expressly confirmed contraband species were: Bumba cabocla, Acanthoscurria geniculata, Grammostola pulchra, Typhochlaena seladonia, and Cyriocosmus ritae.

The TKC is sensitive to the concern this news may cause to members of the tarantula keeping community. Within the next few weeks, the TKC will roll out a new consumer guide listing all known species that are contraband or could be contraband, according to this FWS guideline. The TKC encourages all supporters to utilize this information when making purchases. Future plans for this consumer guide include reports on the fragility of given species in their native habitats due to pollution and other human-made disasters. The TKC is diligently researching other countries’ exportation laws in order to provide the most comprehensive information to supporters.

Despite USFWS emphasizing that possession of species endemic to Brazil is illegal, they are not recommending the animals be destroyed or forfeited. If a keeper or breeder has one or more species which are subject to Lacey Act violation, the TKC recommends caring for the animal(s) as usual, but do not sell or trade it to anyone at this time.

The Tarantula Keepers Coalition continues to strive towards policy change to expand and protect the capacity of U.S. breeders to lend their expertise in repopulating and conserving these important animals. For more about their work, please visit


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