Typhochlaena seladonia

The Tarantula Keepers Coalition has added a new fundraiser to its current efforts. Please visit the Go Fund Me page to add your support. The fundraiser reads:

There are only a few hobbyists that do not know Tom Patterson who is well-known in keeping and breeding tarantulas for over 20 years. Tom has helped thousands of hobbyists become responsible keepers through his art, photography and his importing and breeding projects. Tom has provided fellow hobbyists with rare insights into the incredible spiders that would otherwise go unseen. He is about to embark on another big project and needs your support. Tom is fighting the forfeiture of his tarantulas and possible civil penalties!
Specifically, a Brazilian agency and regulation is the Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente a dos Recursos Naturais Renovaveis Ordinance No. 93/1998 (July 7, 1998) published in Portuguese. This Brazilian ordinance prohibits trade in flora and fauna and Tom is an unsuspecting victim entrapped for importing spiders.

If you are not familiar with the legal issue regarding Brazilian species, please read this carefully to get informed. In July of 2018, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) confiscated an import of Typhochlaena seladonia (T. seladonia) from Tom – a licensed and credential importer, who had the proper documentation. The reason for seizure was not faulty documents rather an obscure Brazilian agency ordinance never published nor listed by CITES or the U.S. government. To this day USFWS has made no announcement, regulation or given any guidelines as to whether T. seladonia can be imported and places the burden on you, the importer, to know this Brazilian ordinance, which is in the Portuguese language.
In summary, the USFWS is seizing property, in this case the T. seladonia, from U.S. citizens based upon a foreign ordinance without ever providing notice and due process to the importer. Until your import is seized, you do not know if some foreign country has an agency ordinance that would hold you in violation of a foreign rule. If a specimen is not listed under CITES or the U.S. Endangered Species Act how do you know if you can legally import any specimen because of a foreign regulation? At this time all you know is that T. seladonia is unlawful because Brazil said so back in 1998!

The larger legal battle is how many other unknown foreign agency ordinances will the USFWS enforce against unsuspecting law-abiding U.S. hobbyists? This lack of clarity places all flora and fauna importers at risk. Nothing short of a successful court battle can stop the USFWS from using this same vague enforcement from other foreign countries and placing all hobbyistsin financial jeopardy and causing many a sleepless night. Think? Is there a foreign ordinance you have violated while believing you were complying with CITES and ESA? How would you know without researching every country of the species origin?

Tom has retained a law office and has support from the Tarantula Keeper’s Coalition (TKC) to challenge the USFWS in the U.S. federal court system to clarify and correct this injustice. This legal issue is bigger than achieving justice for Tom and is a legal fight for all who might be subject to a foreign agency regulation passed by a foreign government yet enforced against a U.S. Citizen.

When import laws lack transparency, the demand for illegal poaching or “brown boxing” increases. We believe that responsible, legal trade avenues are vital to combating poaching behavior that threatens the safety and longevity of wild tarantula populations. Your gift today will help Tom challenge the USFWS in court. Friends of Tom ask our allies in the community to join this legal fight for everyone. Thank you.

TKC US Population Project: Poecilotheria vittata

Poecilotheria vittata. The Ghost Ornamental.

This one I am personally very excited about. The first “ornamental” tarantula that I fell in love with was Poecilotheria vittata, with their vivid whites and dark blacks. I wanted a female so bad but couldn’t find any in the states. I had to get a couple juvies on import. This was in 2017, over a year before the Sri Lankan Pokies were added to the Endangered Species Act (ESA). My juvies turned out to be all boys, but I was happy that I’d be able get some of their babies. My first male to mature went to Brandon Craig in Arizona and his mate there gave us a small sac, from which I have a four-spider communal who is thriving. One of my other males matured recently and the other passed away before maturing.

Just before the Sri Lankan Pokies were put on the ESA, Brandon offered to sell me two P. vittata females. I’ve named Wendy and Bonnie, from the early Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoon, after girls whom befriended Casper. Right around that same time, Brandi Vance contacted me with a mature male P. vittata (whom Brandi had named Casper, he was a charmer!). I couldn’t believe how lucky I was getting! Fast forward to a year later, we have over 100 beautiful spiderlings from Casper and Bonnie!

Unfortunately Casper died of old age before Wendy molted in our care. He spent his last days stuffed between two beautiful ladies (all in their own enclosures, of course!), and he tapped to them until he couldn’t tap no more. Wendy has since molted and met with my other boy, whom I call Ghost. (Hopefully we’ll have another P. vittata project at the end of the year!)

The Spiderlings

The majority of the spiderlings yielded by Bonnie have been donated to the TKC for distribution via the TKC US Population Project. We also recently received spiderlings donated by James Fuentes for the TKC US Population Project. (Thanks again, James!!) We are very happy to announce that we have twenty-five sets of three P. vittata to ship across the United States!

How Can You Get Involved?

If you would like to participate in the TKC US Population Project: P. vittata, all you have to do is email us ([email protected]) and tell us about yourself. (Please don’t PM us with breeder requests.) Let us know what species you’ve bred, what other breeders you have worked with, etc, and be sure include your location. When we choose breeders, these are these are the main things we look at. Be sure to include anything you want us to know about yourself or your experience. If your request is missing information, you will be passed for this project. Unfortunately we do not have time to seek your information so it will be your responsibility to include it. We are accepting breeder requests for the next couple weeks. In mid-August, the breeders chosen will be emailed and we will begin sending out sets of P. vittata!

The Tarantula Keepers Coalition is forever grateful to all of our wonderful supporters. We absolutely love all the participation we are seeing. We hope to continue this program for a long, long time, and to expand it to other Poecilotheria species or Brazilian species if they get added to the ESA or are otherwise regulated. Through the TKC US Population Project, we can ensure species thrive in the United States. We are proud to work with so many like-minded people. If you are interested in participating in this leg, please be sure to email us.

If you have spiderlings or are expecting spiderlings and would like to donate them to the project, email us or PM us on Facebook and we will work out the details. We truly appreciate everyone who is participating! However a very special thanks to Brandi and James for donating portions of their spiderlings to the TKC. We are honored. We look forward to working with many other wonderful people in the community.

Facebook Groups & Live Animal Sales

Facebook Group - Live Animals Sales

As you may know, several of the Tarantula Keepers Coalition board members are also admins/mods for the Facebook group The Tarantula Community. On Sunday of this week, Facebook disabled The Tarantula Community was for live animal sales posts. The admins of the Tarantula Community spent all of Sunday removing any posts that might trigger Facebook algorithms. On Monday the group requested a review by Facebook. As of now, a back-up group was created called The Tarantula Community TTC. Until the review has been processed, we are unsure what the outcome will be for the original group. We will update as anything changes.

We spoke with many other Facebook members during the past few days and it seems that even if a group has been reinstated, Facebook has often deleted the group again in a short period of time. This hasn’t been the case for every group that’s been disabled but the possibility hangs over the group.

Facebook’s Live Animal Sales Policy

Understanding Facebook’s live animal sales policy is imperative for all group admins/mods. It has long been Facebook’s policy that sales of endangered animals and their parts were forbidden. In May, they updated the policy to include sales of all animals between individuals. Animals sales are allowed to be posted by rehoming services, adoption services, shelters or brick-and-mortar entities. What is determined to be a “brick-and-mortar” entity is a case-by-case basis, but it is fair for us to assume if you have a storefront or established location which is connected to your business wherein customers can purchase tarantulas, you should be safe to make sales posts.

According to Facebook’s commerce rules, posts by individuals may not promote the sales of any of the following: live animals, pets, livestock, or any part, pelt or skin from an animal, including fur. However, the following are allowed: animal cages, (non-living) products for animals, veterinary services, grooming services, and boarding services.

Protect your Group from Being Disabled

Prevention is the best course of action. Here are some ways you can help prevent violations.

Full Post Approval for your group – this allows you to control every post that is attempted to be posted in your group. This is the #1 best tool at your disposal. You can also set pre-approved members if there are members that you trust to never submit a post that could result in a violation. Admins and mods are automatically pre-approved.

Watch for words/phrases that could trigger Facebook’s algorithms such as “sale”, “for sale”, “PM me for details”, etc. Decline or remove posts including such words/phrases which appear to be transactions between individuals. Again, brick-and-mortar entities are allowed to make such posts. (This is a important detail to remember!)

If your group gets disabled, any work on the group prior to the review can only be done by admin. You may want to consider promoting mods to admins, just in case. You get one chance for review so you want it to count. Be diligent in your group and you should be safe. 🙂 Most members are very understanding and willing to work with the groups they’re in as no one wants to see Facebook groups get shut down.

TKC US Population Project Update: P. fasciata

The Tarantula Keepers Coalition US Population Project is in full swing! (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, click here!) The first leg of the TKC US Population Project included Poecilotheria fasciata, which were bred from fellow TKC board members Quentin and Amy Salina’s male and our female. We each donated our half of the sac to be distributed across the United States.


Firstly, we would like to thank everyone who has supported the TKC and shown interest in the US Population Project. We received an overwhelming response from breeders requesting to participating in the Poecilotheria fasciata project; more requests than we had sets of spiderlings to give. We wish we could send a set to everyone who submitted a request. Anyone who did not receive a set this time will remain in our records for the next P. fasciata project.

The Breeders

Most importantly, we want to welcome the breeders who were chosen to join the TKC US Population Project: P. fasciata. We are proud to work with this diverse group of breeders and look forward to many breeding projects. The TKC is very grateful for the support and enthusiasm we’ve seen already.

The following breeders were chosen for the TKC US PP (P. fasciata) :

  • Edward Addams
  • Corey Felter of Sinister Arachnids
  • Kelly Fornez of KF Invertebrates
  • Brian & Stephanie Griggs
  • William Hiett of Panhandle Arachnids
  • Caleb Hill
  • Cristoffer Hinshaw
  • Chris Minks
  • Natalee M of Natalee’s 8 Legged Journey
  • Jodi Newago
  • Zac Oddo
  • Aaron Singleton 
  • Brandon Tucker

The breeders were chosen based on a number of aspects. The main factors were location and experience. First, we identified which states in the US were lacking in P. fasciata via a survey in the Tarantula Community Facebook group. The location of the breeders was then looked at and we removed those in states that were covered. We then looked at experience. In the end, Amy ended up getting another half of a sac and we were able to invite a few more requestees to participate.

The Arrangement

Upon agreeing to join the TKC US Population Project, the breeders agreed to a few simple stipulations.

    • Each breeder paid for shipping of their set of P. fasciata.
    • Each breeder also agreed to donate half of any successful sacs, that they procure from the three P. fasciata, to the TKC for further distribution across the United States.
    • In addition, each breeder agreed to send any males they get from these three P. fasciata to the TKC once they mature, if the TKC so needs.
    • Furthermore, each breeder also agreed to let me mention them in this blog. However, this was not a stipulation, but an option. I want to thank all of our breeders for allowing me to give them credit. 🙂


The Tarantula Keepers Coalition will have be initiating the next leg of our US Population Project with Poecilotheria vitatta slings in the near future. Be sure to follow us on Facebook to stay up to date. Watch for the post announcing that we are accepting breeder requests and instructions on how to get involved.

As always, we want to thank our supporters. From the bottom of our hearts, your support means the world to us. We invite you to join us on Facebook in our TKC Duscussion group. We look forward to talking with you.

Ranil & the “Save the Pokies” Fund

Photo of Poecilotheria sp discovered by Ranil

There has been some speculation around our mission with Ranil P. Nanayakkara and the “Save the Pokies” GoFundMe. I am happy to post this information, to give the public further understanding and hopefully garnish further acceptance of the GoFundMe. This is all the information I could think of and compile regarding Ranil and the GoFundMe. If you have any further questions, PLEASE feel free to reach out to me personally to ask anything. I will do my very best to answer questions and provide any documentation I can get my hands on. (Contact info at the end of this blog.) Please have a look at each attachment and link.

Ranil has been acknowledged through awards such as the NRC (National Research Council), Sri Lanka,  Merit Award for Scientific Publication in 2014 and the Oscar & Jan Francke Student Research Award, International Society of Archeology in March 2018. More information about Ranil’s research is available on his ResearchGate.net profile. Below are some links to scientific papers that Ranil has published (dating back as far as 2011), just to show that he is heavily involved in mygalomorph research and has been for some years now. Ranil is not just a marine biologist, as I have heard people claim. The next edition of the British Tarantula Society will include more of Ranil’s work, and there are other species that Ranil shared with us recently that have yet to be described. Please check out these links to get a better understanding of Ranil’s contributions to arachnid science.

Below you will also find attached a picture of the contract to buy the land, both in Sinhala and English; included in the same document is receipt documentation from the landowner receiving the money, that was sent to Ranil. Next is the screen shots of the receipt of me sending it to Ranil – three transactions in all, totaling just over $4000. Please notice that I sent every penny; The TKC paid the fees. Next is screenshots of what the GoFundMe has force-withdrawn to me so far.

I believe that I misspoke somewhere and I cannot find it to correct myself. If we do not raise all of the money, the landowner has agreed to allow a partial purchase of the land. Although I cannot bring myself to be satisfied with anything less than everything, it is a relief to know that this won’t be all for nothing if we do not reach the entire goal. We have until June 15, 2019 to raise another $10,000. If we cannot reach our goal, Ranil will secure whatever percentage of land he has paid for. We will keep our supporters up to date on this effort.

If you review these documents and links and still have questions about Ranil or our efforts to help him purchase land in Sri Lanka, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me on Facebook or via email. Thank you for taking the time to read this.


Discovery of the Critically Endangered Tarantula Species of the Genus Poecilotheria (Poecilotheria hanumavilasumica)

Courtship Behavior of Smith’s Tiger Spider (Poecilotheria smithi)

Some Notes on Ground Dwelling Mygalomorph Araneae Spiders of Sri Lanka

Tiger Spider of Sri Lanka

A New Species of Tiger Spider Genus Poecilotheria from Northern Sri Lanka

The Range Extension of the Critically Endangered Poecilotheria smithi in Sri Lanka with Notes on it’s Sociality

An Introduction to Common Spiders of Sri Lanka (a book distributed to Sri Lanka locals to educate them on their local arachnids and their importance in the ecosystem.)

A New Species of Tiger Spider from Sri Lanka  (Poecilotheria rajaei)

Current Distribution of Tiger Spiders Genus Poecilotheria, in Select Sites in Sri Lanka

The Taxonomy and Conservation Status of the Spiders Arachnida Araneae in Sri Lanka

Hitherto Unrecorded Species of Poecilotheria Tarantula from Sri Lanka

See also: Ranil’s Plea to the Tarantula Keepers Coalition’s Supporters

Original Land Contract
Original Land Contract

Land Contract Translated




TKC Withdrawals
TKC Withdrawals

Ranil’s Message to TKC Supporters

TKC logo


A message from our biologist partner in Sri Lanka; to our wonderful supporters and any concerned individuals

Ranil's Message
Ranil’s Message to TKC Supporters

Please take a moment to consider what our friend is asking of us. If we can raise $7000 by the end of this month (we’re already over $1500!), and the other $7000 by May 20, we can help Ranil secure this land. Imagine a trip to Sri Lanka in 2023 to tour the research station and spend a few days out in the field with Ranil, observing these new species he has discovered. If we help him secure this land, it’s very likely that that could happen.

Report: A Study in Sri Lanka

Poecilotheria ornata

“Hey. Do you want to write a blog?”

When I saw the message from fellow TKC director Amy Salinas come through, I knew she was about to tell me something great. I immediately said yes without knowing what I was agreeing to. I was excited to receive the email she had forwarded to me. We had received a report from our biologist friend in Sri Lanka, Ranil P. Nanayakkara. Ranil has been working hard in the field and we are happy to share some of his findings with you.

Previously there has not been much effort to understand spider diversity in Sri Lanka. Species descriptions from Sri Lanka are centuries old and were done using museum specimens therefore there isn’t much information about the ecological system.  Ranil and his colleagues set out to better understand the diversity, population, ecology and threats to spiders in Sri Lanka. The goal of this study aspires to form baseline data for future research and to identify spiders which are endangered. Ranil and his colleagues also intend on popularizing mygalomorphs and creating awareness locally about the benefits of spiders in the ecosystem.

The Tarantula Keepers Coalition is proud to be working with Ranil and BEAR (University of Kelaniya / Biodiversity Education And Research). We hope that you find this report as interesting and exciting as we do. And we hope that after reading this, perhaps you will considering donating to our  “Save the Pokies” GoFundMe  to help us assist Ranil in his work and preservation of land.

The GoFundMe is about the Sri Lankan pokies but it’s also about so much more! If we can raise the funds goal of $14,000, we can help Ranil purchase the land he has been studying. This fifteen (15) acres of land is at risk of being cleared very soon. If this small but imperative piece of land is lost, we will never meet the species that Ranil and his colleagues have found in the lowland wet zone of Sri Lanka. Ranil’s research will be irrelevant for a location that ceases to exist.

Here I will briefly summarize the report that Ranil’s submitted to the Tarantula Keepers Coalition. I will also attach the report for anyone who cares to read the original. I urge all keepers to read Ranil’s report. It is extremely interesting and I will not be covering everything he reports on. I have removed locations, as well as photos and maps at Ranil’s request. I would love nothing more than to show you the beautiful spiders that he has found in his studies but Ranil wishes for them to remain a mystery until they are described.

Bio-inventory and Conservation of Mygalomorph Spiders in the Wet Zone of Sri Lanka

Ranil and his colleagues spent more than five-hundred hours surveying and observing locations in the wet zone of Sri Lanka. They collected information on distribution and habitat of different species found in Sri Lanka. A few of the species they observed include: Sason robustum, Indothele lanka, Chilobrachys nitelinus, Plesiophrictus tenuipes, and Poecilotheria ornata, which was the only arboreal species they observed. In addition to these species, our friends recorded several species belonging to Chilobrachys, Plesiophrictus and one species of Poecilotheria. These species are to be described in the near future!

The things Ranil saw…

Spiders were observed in undisturbed locations as well as domesticated locations. Our friends recorded that terrestrial spiders were abundant in the small holder tea plantations, where very little pesticides are used. More females were recorded than males, as females are likely to spend their whole lives in the same burrow unless something happens to cause them to relocate. Males, of course, tend to wander. Ranil and his colleagues suspected that the reports they had received from villagers about spiders venturing in to dwellings were likely to be male specimens. They confirmed two such males.

These terrestrial spiders behaved as expected by displaying a sit-and-wait predatory style. In over 120 hours of focal sampling, just under half (49%) of the spiders’ time was spent sitting at the entrance to their burrows. Just over a quarter (30%) of the time spent completely in their burrows. These spiders were nocturnal and were recorded as being active during the late night/early morning hours. (Interesting observation: the researchers noticed the spiders were less active during full moons! They do feel that more research needs to be done to confirm such findings.) The spiders’ time away from the burrow only accounted for about one-fifth (18%) of the observation. 3% of overall activity was direct feeding observation. Only P. ornata and Indothele species were seen attacking their prey when found within range, and immobilizing it. All other spiders retreated into their burrows after nabbing their prey. 

The threats the spiders face…

Ranil and his colleagues also assessed the spiders’ local threats during this study of the wet zone of Sri Lanka.  The largest threat is, unsurprisingly, human activity. Illegal encroachment by cinnamon and tea growers are threatening local extinction of the spiders since they are not distributed elsewhere. Human developing such as widening of the roads is leaving spiders homeless as the road side banks they prefer are destroyed. What were once large home gardens, plentiful with spiders, are being turned into homes and summer huts as tourism activity increases. Locals often kill spiders they see because they are afraid and do not understand the importance of each and every spider. (Ranil and his team intend to help put an end to villagers killing spiders by providing educational literature to locals so they know what spiders do for their ecosystem.) Much more research is necessary to understand their biology, ecology, and distribution; which will aid in long-term viability of an array of species, which will also be useful in future conservation efforts.

All in all…

World authorities in biological conservation and environment studies have identified the importance of the immediate task of taking inventory of spiders on this planet. Our researchers believe (and we agree!) that spiders, especially mygalomorphs which come from ancient linage, are a crucial part of the structure and function of the many ecosystems of Earth, as they act as biocontrol agents and bioindicators, maintaining the fragile balance. Ranil feels if we lose these ancient species, the whole planet will be overrun by many species of arthropod pests which will destroy crops.

One of my favorite parts of the Ranil’s report….

The closing of Ranil’s report is where I really felt it in my soul. I cannot possibly reword it better than he said himself so I quote:

“The major reason for nature conservation is psychological; the kind of refreshment only the natural environment can give us. The more urban our own day-by-day life becomes, the more crowded our cities, the more tension in everyday life – the greater will be the desire and need to escape to the wilder places that mother nature has given us, where we can gain recreation – re- creation, in the original sense of the word.

“No sooner than later, it is time when we can reserve these natural beauties, there is no other species of taxa in the world that can camouflage themselves or dwell in a tubular dwelling that was developed by them (when it comes to arthropods). Some have even manufactured lids to their dwellings that were constructed utilising the leaf litter from the surrounding environment. Protect nature; protect what Sri Lanka is blessed with. Educate the uneducated and realise what the future holds.”

Please feel free to read all of Ranil’s report below. And if you feel compelled, send a donation, or share Amy’s “Save the Pokies” GoFundMe. We are also holding auctions at The Tarantula Community group this month as we try to reach our goal before April is over.

The Tarantula Keepers Coalition continues to strive to bring you the more current information available as we work towards natural conservation and helping the hobby self-sustain. Stay tuned for blogs about the TKC Population Project, TKC merchandise, updates to our website, a possible TKC expo tour, and lots more!


Ranil's Report 1st Page

The TKC US Population Project

TKC logoYou may have heard talk of a project that we are kicking off. We call it the TKC US Population Project and I’m going to tell you a little bit about it. We’re pretty excited!

TKC US Population Project

This idea was born in the Tarantula Keepers Coalition board chat months ago when we were discussing the Sri Lanka Pokie restrictions. Several of the board members have a deep passion for the Poecilotheria genus and had Sri Lankan species breeding projects at the time. We wanted to distribute the spiderlings to other breeders to help ensure they thrive in the United States. Collectively, we decided it would be best to donate the spiderlings to the TKC. We created a program to allow us to ensure the spiderlings we procure be distributed to breeders across the country. We hope to ultimately have at least one breeder in each of the contiguous United States consistently breeding these species.

This project aligns with another project we have in the works, wherein we will be having our stock DNA tested. TKC directors will be paying out-of-pocket to have our Poecilotheria species DNA tested and we will document the whole process.

If the Brazil situation goes as Special Agent Dan Coil suggested (see our interpretation of director Garred Martin’s conversation with Special Agent Coil here), the TKC will also include Brazilian endemics in our US Population Project and do our best to help the United States self-sustain and the species to thrive in the US hobby.

The Breeders

The Tarantula Keepers board of directors will be holding a meeting next week to discuss the email applications we have received. We will then decide who we will be sending spiderlings to. There was an overwhelming response to our Facebook post, receiving more emails than we have spiderlings. We will not be able to send spiderlings to everyone who applied because of this. However, you will remain in our data base for the next time we have Poecilotheria fasciata available. Breeders are responsible for shipping charges. Spiderlings will begin to ship to breeders the 2nd week of April. 

We appreciate the particulation we are seeing in this project. Together, we can keep these species alive and well in the US.

Interested in Donating Spiderlings/Entering a Breeder Contract with the TKC?

If you are a breeder and have Sri Lanken Pokie projects, please keep us in mind when you have spiderlings. The directors intend on donating all our Sri Lanken Poecilotheria spiderlings to the TKC for this project. The TKC is also open to breeding projects so if you have a mature male or mature female of any of the Sri Lanken Poecilotheria and are interested in entering a breeding contract with the TKC, let us know!

Contact us at [email protected] to discuss our program.


The TKC Helps Desertas Wolf Spider Project See Goal


TKC logo

We are proud to announce that last week we raised enough funds through charity auctions to help bring  PredatororPrey Online and Bristol Zoo Gardens’ Desertas Wolf Spider project to their goal. It didn’t take much convincing from Tom Patterson when he brought up the project at a TKC board meeting. Conservation and land preservation are something that we all care very deeply about. This project was something that Tom has been watching for a few years.

“I had first read about the declining isolated population of Hogna ingens (Desertas Wolf Spider) in a 2015 article of the British Tarantula Society Journal,” Tom explained.  “I’m happy to see Bristol Zoo Gardens ongoing efforts to restore the ecological balance of the Castanheira Valley where this beautiful critically endangered spider is found. It’s great to be able to help fund projects like this through the TKC, and I hope to work on many future conservation efforts moving forward.” Tom spoke for us all when he concluded. “I wish Bristol Zoo Gardens and all other parties involved the best of luck with their work in the on Deserta Grande Island and the future of Hogna ingens.”

A little bit about the Desertas Wolf Spider project, excerpt from Bristol Zoo Gardens’ website

The Desertas wolf spider (Hogna ingens) is endemic to Vale da Castanheira, Desertas Islands, Madeira, Portugal. Despite having an impressive 40mm body size and being the largest known species of wolf spider, very little is known about this species.

Even though some taxonomists have provided redescriptions, every other aspect of this remarkable species has remained unknown until recently. It was assessed as Critically Endangered according to the IUCN (Cardoso 2014) but is not protected by any international, national or regional legislation or agreements.

In the absence of any native terrestrial mammals, this spider is a top predator in its habitat. Although its major prey consists of other invertebrates, such as beetles, woodlice and millipedes, adults have also been seen predating on juvenile lizards. The latter, along with birds and mice, are the major predators of H. ingens, mostly during its juvenile stage. This is when the spider is most vulnerable to predators because in addition to its smaller size, it tends to disperse in order to find new shelters, thus maximizing the likelihood of encounters with potential predators. As spiders grow and find proper shelters, mostly below rocks but also in soil crevices, their inclination to disperse gradually decreases. It takes about two years for spiders to reach maturity.

The small valley where the spider lives is currently mostly covered by Phalaris spp. The colonization of this grass in the Vale da Castanheira was hidden for some years due to the presence of rabbits that grazed and controlled the spread of the plant. With the eradication of rabbits from the Valley in 1996, Phalaris lost its main predator and now proliferates. This grass appears to not only displace many native plants, but also many of the native animals. It covers the surface of the soil and rocks, making the microhabitats below the rocks harder to access for the spiders.

Five year objectives:

– To restore the ecological balance in the Castanheira Valley through reduction of Phalaris density on the assumption that a viable population of spiders will persist across the entire valley
– To analyze the genetic structure of the population, its habitat preferences and the potential consequences of climate change
– To maintain and breed a second spider population at Bristol Zoo Gardens
– To raise awareness of the importance and uniqueness of the spider to visitors at Bristol Zoo Gardens

The TKC often holds auctions for various fundraising endeavors. Each of the board members has very generously donated spiders from our own collections. We have also donated spiders from our shops. The community comes together time and again to raise funds and has shown great support for the TKC.  We will soon be announcing other preservation and conservation efforts that we are working towards. We welcome any suggestions or ideas from our supporters as well. 

To take part in the auctions, supporters are encouraged to join the Facebook group The Tarantula Community

To donate to the cause, click here.

Bristol Zoo Gardens Desertas Wolf Spider Project
PredatorOrPrey Online
Photo credit: Emanuele Biggi

TKC Information Update


To our community of dedicated followers, we cannot thank you enough. The amount of shares and traffic to our website is incredible. Thank you for all the questions you have brought to us. Please keep them coming! Our team works hard to see that no question goes unanswered. It is part of our mission to provide the most accurate, up-to-date information that we have. We believe that transparency is the best policy. Therefore, we believe it is necessary to share with you any information that is presented to us. This information is not intended as guidance for hobbyist, vendors, or importers; but as a tool in making informed decisions.

After our previous press release went live, board member, Garred Martin, was able to get connected via phone call with Special Agent in Charge at United States Fish & Wildlife Services (FWS), Dan Coil. Special Agent Coil, who works in law enforcement policy and analysis, is stationed at the Virginia headquarters. Garred sought clarification of the information that was given to us by the concerned hobbyist (see March 7, 2019 Press Release). Garred advocated to Special Agent Coil the worries of hobbyists, vendors, and importers, and expressed that the community is in need of an official statement from FWS to be made public. Special Agent Coil provided many answers before Garred began asking questions. This has been applied now to all Brazilian imports of flora and fauna and tarantulas were not singled-out, according to Special Agent Coil.

We discovered some discrepancy between the actual law and how FWS intends on enforcing it. Although the information we’ve received has been correct thus far, how the law would be enforced has only been based on opinion and interpretation of the law. Until they release their statement in the next month, FWS employees only have the Lacey Act to go by. They have been accurate in their answers because they have simply sited the the Lacey Act. They have not had answers for us on how they intend on enforcing the law.

“There seem to be some misconceptions.” says Garred. “From the start of this, the TKC has been attempting to form a good relationship with FWS. We are in no way trying to fight them or push any issue. We do not know why, but we do know FWS headquarters sent a request to Brazil for information regarding their tarantula species. Brazil replied that none of their species were ever exported for commercial purpose. As soon as Brazil was willing to put that in writing, FWS had no choice but to enforce importation of ALL Brazilian species. This was all confirmed in my phone conversation with Special Agent Dan Coil. No amount of pushing or fighting it would have changed the chain of events to follow.”

Questions and Answers

Garred was given permission to share the content of the phone call with Special Agent Coil. Special Agent Coil explained that using direct quotes would require a lengthy process of approval and thus delay his ability to answer our urgent questions, although he would agree to release one if we wished to go that route. We were granted permission to paraphrase and give credit to Special Agent Coil. Please note that we have used Special Agent Coil’s real name and station location and are thus not preventing anyone from verifying this reported encounter.

Why are their imports being seized and what measure should importers take?

Answer: From what we understand, species found in Brazil have been seized and are at risk of law enforcement action, as they are in violation of the Lacey Act. Importers should do their due diligence to not import any species endemic to Brazil. Importers should expect to be required to show proof of origin of any species, regardless of its country of origin, if that species can also be found in Brazil.

What about these species that were already legally cleared at port and are in the hobby?  Are they deemed illegal to trade, sell, and keep?

Answer: From what we understand, if FWS legally cleared the animals before this new ruling then it is indeed safe to keep, trade, sell and breed such species without the fear of being prosecuted or worry of committing a crime.

Are we able to get an official outline to send out to the entire hobby?

Answer: FWS has an official bulletin regarding this issue which is currently in review. It is anticipated that the bulletin will be released within one month. . FWS has also offered to have an agent present with the TKC at our first gathering at the Show Me Spiders Tarantula Takeover in April. This will be to answer questions and give insight of the work of FWS and future of our hobby, which we intend to livestream for those of you not able to attend.

More from Garred Martin

“Since this is an all new situation for the tarantula hobby,” explained Garred. “The opinions and advice given by FWS employees have changed over the past several months. None of what we have reported was meant to be taken as the way things are. The things we have reported have simply been what FWS has told members of the TKC, as well as others. The intention of the most recent release, from my understanding, should’ve been to report strictly as opinion and as an example of how FWS are responding to such inquiries.”

“Being as Special Agent Coil works in policy and analysis, I believe this is the most accurate opinion of how things will play out.” Garred continued. “Even still, I was told it would be thirty (30) days before a public announcement is made by FWS and these policies are finalized. That said, it is still possible that things may change between now and when the statement comes out. My understanding of what was said is that from now on, or until something changes, all species found on Brazil will be illegal to import. Species that occur in, but are not endemic to, Brazil will require documentation proving that these species were legally imported from the other country of origin. In other words, if a species is found in Brazil and Uruguay, FWS will require documentation proving that the ancestors originated in Uruguay.”

“The good news is that I was told what’s in is in and that if an endemic Brazilian species came into the country on a legal import and was cleared by FWS or customs, they would not be considered illegal. No one will be coming to people’s houses or businesses, or pursuing legal action against those that own or sell these species. It was my understanding that whether the species were let in because customs or FWS missed them on the import, didn’t check or simply didn’t know the law at that time, they would not be going after the individuals that imported these species. This is great news for the US hobby because if things are written as I was told they will be, we will be able to continue to breed, sell and transfer Brazilian species that have already come into the country.”

“Again, until that public statement is released, we are still not 100% sure.” Martin reminds supporters. “For now, all we can do is wait for the official public announcement and anticipate that what I was told while become the norm. We continue to strive to build a positive, long lasting relationship with FWS so we can work together on common goals. We plan to help implement sensible legislation on conservation that is in the best interest of the hobby as well as the animals in question. I personally am very grateful for Special Agent Coil’s offer to speak with our community, at our event. We look forward to planning this for our supporters.” 

The TKC will continue to provide updates and correspondence from FWS and any other government source we can. We understand that the encounters we report are not always what our supporters wish to hear and are not always found helpful by everyone. As an organization, we decided that it is better to report what correspondence we have as opposed to not reporting our communications at all. We anticipate most of our supporters understand and agree.

Our efforts to receive clarification from FWS and to research legislative options provided us with greater direction as an organization. Thus, we are confident we have much to offer our supporters in terms of offering membership and membership benefits. This will occur in the near future. Additionally, we plan to release a platform that will allow members to voice their opinions collectively. We anticipate these next steps will be the momentum the community needs to modernize the laws that impact our lives.