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.

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

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

Beloved Tarantula Breeder Creates GoFundMe to Rescue Undescribed Species of Tarantulas from Land Clearing in Sri Lanka

Bethpage, NY. (February 12, 2019) The Tarantula Keepers Coalition (TKC), a registered non-profit organization dedicated to representing the interests of U.S. breeders and keepers of tarantulas and other arthropods, launched a new fundraiser featuring one of their directors, Amy Salinas. “We are excited to have Amy helm this particular endeavor,” explained one of Amy’s co-directors, Warren van der Biezen. “Amy loves these animals and people in this community love Amy just the same.”

Salinas is perhaps best known for founding what is undoubtedly one of the most helpful and positive tarantula keeping groups on Facebook. It was her love of educating the masses about tarantulas, and the tarantulas themselves, that brought her to first contact biologist Ranil Nanayakkara. Salinas soon learned that Nanayakkara is working fervently to protect several newly discovered and undescribed species of tarantulas, including the Poecilotheria tarantula (or “Pokie”)–a favorite of Salinas. The TKC previously announced their own partnership with Nanayakkara, last month.

The GoFundMe Campaign seeks to raise $14,000 to accomplish a number of incredible goals. The amount is set to fund purchase of 15 acres of land to protect the land from being cleared and the animals from being killed or displaced. Additionally, the funds will provide for a research facility for Nanayakkara to continue his work researching tarantulas and partnering with local village communities to conserve the native flora and fauna. As a part of this research, Nanayakkara will be able to describe these animals and give them a name.

A personal stretch goal of Salinas is to eventually visit Sri Lanka to observe the species herself. “It’s a dream of mine to take video clips and photos of these animals safe in their home so people can see first-hand the difference their support made.” Although she has no plans for a trip yet, Salinas is content for now to fight for these animals with her friends, across borders.

Supporters of this campaign can visit Help Save Amy’s Pokies at its GoFundMe page. For more information about the TKC, visit the organization’s website www.thetkc.org.