The Tarantula Keepers Coalition Statement Regarding the Importation and Interstate Sale of Brazilian Endemic Spiders

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Tarantula Keepers Coalition

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The Tarantula Keepers Coalition Statement Regarding the Importation and Interstate Sale of Brazilian Endemic Spiders 

Bethpage, NY. (January 8, 2019) The Tarantula Keepers Coalition (TKC), a registered non-profit organization dedicated to representing the interests of U.S. breeders of tarantulas and other arthropods, announced today their statement regarding Brazilian endemic spiders. This statement comes in response to a July 2018 United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) seizure of Brazilian endemic animals from a U.S. breeder. “Since that initial seizure, there has been no official statement by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” explains Quentin Salinas, one board member of TKC. “We have received no guidance pertaining to the subsequent and continued enforcement of the law.”

The law in question, the “Lacey Act,” requires U.S. import inspectors to comply with laws enacted in countries abroad related to flora and fauna endemic to those countries. In July of 2018, USFWS inspector Bob Herndon reacted out to several licensed tarantula importers to let them know that  USFWS had received a statement from Brazil declaring that they had never exported any species of tarantula for commercial use. According to USFWSI Herndon, this meant that spiders endemic to Brazil in the United States are illegal as they are the progeny of illegally taken spiders, regardless of how many generations had been produced via the originally illegally taken tarantulas. At least one licensed importer received a certified letter stating that “Brazil has officially informed the United States that they do not allow the export of spiders for commercial uses” meaning that every Brazilian spider “outside of the country of Brazil is considered to be an illegally smuggled animal. Attempting to import them into the US as well as interstate commerce, would violate the Lacey Act prohibitions.”

In January of 2019, the same importer received an email from USFWS regarding a late-2018 shipment. The email indicated that their shipment had been searched and cleared for Brazilian endemic species. In part, the email read:

“BE ADVISED THAT FUTURE LAW ENFORCEMENT ACTION WILL BE TAKEN FOR ANY SPECIES ENDEMIC OR WITH NATURAL RANGE LIMITED TO BRAZIL.”

The TKC regards the content of this email as an official statement from the USFWS. “The wording is clear,” says Salinas. “The USFWS will take action.” The TKC urges U.S. breeders to be mindful of possible legal ramifications of the USFWS considering Brazilian endemic species in the U.S. to be illegally imported. This could include, the TKC urges, scrutiny and seizures held to sale or transfer of Brazilian endemic species across state lines.

The Lacey Act, enacted in 1900, has become a point of contention among U.S. breeders who maintain that the 118-year-old law restricts their ability to breed and populate certain threatened and endangered arthropod species by holding them to international laws that stand to threaten the existence of these species. Brazil’s Environment Crimes Law.

To prevent further legal compromise of Brazilian species already residing with U.S. breeders, the TKC urges breeders to practice “legal self-regulation.” This refers to adhering to a strict interpretation of existing laws by avoiding interstate sales and importation of Brazilian endemic species until advocacy efforts are successful in modernizing the Lacey Act.

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

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