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.

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.

A Big THANK YOU!

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.

Links:

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

Attachments:
Original Land Contract
Original Land Contract

Land Contract Translated

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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

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.

The Tarantula Keepers Coalition Announcement Regarding Exciting New Partnership with Conservation Biologist in Sri Lanka

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Tarantula Keepers Coalition

Media Contact

Email: [email protected]

Website: www.thetkc.org

The Tarantula Keepers Coalition Announcement Regarding Exciting New Partnership with Conservation Biologist in Sri Lanka

Bethpage, NY. (January 25, 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, announced today their partnership with Conservation Biologist, Ranil P. Nanayakkara. The TKC and Nanayakkara share in common a passion for the research and conservation of Sri Lankan species of Mygalomorph spiders.  

Continue reading “The Tarantula Keepers Coalition Announcement Regarding Exciting New Partnership with Conservation Biologist in Sri Lanka”