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!
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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.
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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 Information Update

AN IMPORTANT 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.