My new book!
Frogs: Inside Their Remarkable World
by Ellin Beltz

1996 HerPET-POURRI Columns by Ellin Beltz

1987 . 1988 . 1989 . 1990 . 1991 . 1992 .

1993 . 1994 . 1995 . 1996 . 1997 . 1998 .

1999 . 2000 . 2001 . 2002 . 2003 . 2004 .

2005 . 2006

This was my tenth year of writing for the Chicago Herpetological Society Bulletin.

January 1996

Happy New Year!

And special thanks to all who've contributed to this column for the last ten years. This month, special thanks are due to Bill Burnett, P.L. Beltz, Mark T. Witwer, Steve Ragsdale, Clover Krajicek, Ray Boldt, Andy Viasmith, Lori King-Nava, Marty Marcus, Dreux J. Watermolen, Karen Furnweger, Alan Salzberg, Robert C. Danley, Denise and Frank Andreotti, E.A. Zorn, Kathy Bricker, Jack Schoenfelder, Theron E. Magers, David Webb, R.W. Hansen, Ernie Liner, Garrett Kazmierski, Jim Zimmerman, Sue Black, J.N. Stuart, David E. Johnson, and the usual suspects for their contributions. You can join this group of happy-clippers. Send the whole pages with herp stories or just the stories with the date/publication slug firmly attached with tape. Your name should be on every clipping sent; you can use address labels or rubber stamps or just scribble. Please do not use staples or self-adhesive notes - to see why staple newspaper together and try to separate without tearing. Those cute little yellow notes lift off type. Then I have to hold the note to the mirror to read what was lost! Send your contributions directly to me.


Roger Conant received the Roger Tory Peterson "Nature Educator of the Year Award" for his "lifelong contribution to people's understanding and appreciation of the natural world." Dr. Conant authored the "Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians" in 1958 which showcased hand colored photographs by his wife, Isabel Conant. He is an honorary member of CHS and has published recollections of the efforts put into the publication of the first edition of the field guide in our Bulletin.


Moko, the Newsletter of the New Zealand Herpetological Society recently published an article from the NZ Listener [October 28 - November 3, 1995]: "...Among our reptiles, the unique tuatara holds pride of place on the collector's mantelpiece... [A convicted smuggler's lawyer said] `Asians, Japanese and Koreans, for example, with their fascination for reptiles, will pay phenomenal prices $60,000 to $80,000 a pair'... [An enforcement official said he] has heard of American buyers spreading the word that for tuataras they will settle the price on arrival: `You get them there and the sky's the limit.' He worries that if attempts have been made to smuggle tuatara then statistically some must be slipping through the net." The article then described the activity of the same smuggler who has been put in jail twice for trading in tuatara. First he got three years after breaking into a museum and taking two young; and in another case for trying to get another animal into the U.S. The article continued: "Investigators believe that that tuatara was one of an unknown number taken from the... sanctuary in Cook Strait. They are haunted by the image of [the convicted man] stalking the island with a shovel in his hand and a sackful of tuatara; yet, although they intercepted his boat, they found him empty handed. He was caught trying to smuggle a single tuatara when an alert courier company worker became suspicious... [Officials] estimate that [he] is one of between 20 and 50 dealers of his ilk operating here." Also in the packet from NZHS, is their magnificent brochure on the Reptiles and Amphibians of that nation. It lists all the fauna and gives general legal guidelines as well as providing much other interesting information including how to join their society. You can contact them at 50 Pupuke Road, Birkenhead, Auckland 10 NZ or call 09-480-5430, fax 09-480-7588.

Arizona Frog News

Fossils believed to represent the earliest frogs known to science were identified from rocks collected in the 1980s about 60 miles northeast of Flagstaff. The 2-inch frog fossils date from about 190 million years ago in the Jurassic Period. The basic frog body style was already well developed. One paleontologist remarked "If you saw one of these alive, you would know right away it was a frog." [Albuquerque, NM Journal, September 11, 1995 from J.N. Stuart] A slightly more detailed report comes from Science News which reports that "unlike protofrogs from the earlier Triassic period, this... skeleton's pelvis is designed for transmitting the jumping force of the hind limbs to the rest of the body. The tail of its amphibian ancestors evolved into a short bone that fits entirely inside the pelvis..." The original report was in the September 7 Nature authored by Neil H. Shubin and Farish A. Jenkins, Jr. [148(11) September 9, 1995:166 from Mark T. Witwer]

Population figures of Ramsey Canyon leopard frogs have plummeted from the known 1988 population of about 60 adults in The Nature Conservancy's preserve to an alarming 16 adults. Besides the usual suspects of frog decline - contaminated water, viruses and bacteria, decreasing ozone protection - researchers in the Canyon suggested that the frog is on a boom/bust cycle and has eaten all the available food. They're raising tadpoles, seeding the pond with algae, video- taping adult behaviors, and "crossing their fingers" according to Nature Conservancy magazine. [September/October 1995 from J. N. Stuart]

Australian Frog News

The Deseret News reports: "Australians harness frog power... A rare Australian frog got a radio for the holidays, complete with batteries, after it was found in a brick pit near the site of the 2000 Olympic Games. The green and golden bell frog was fitted with the radio tracking device and antenna mounted on a special harness so that scientists can keep track of its movements. The frogs are on the endangered list and there are fears they could fall into an Olympic pool at the Homebush Sydney site... [they] will measure the distances that the frog travels." [December 5-6, 1995 from David Webb]

The Wall Street Journal reported that the green and golden bell frog has become a "green monster for Aussie Olympics. It moves into the site rubble, bogging things down; oh, the stormy sex scenes." Their habitat is an old brick pit in Sydney, Australia that was used as a location in the Mad Max movie "Beyond Thunderdome." Merely molesting a member of this endangered species can get you two years in jail and a fine of up to $150,000 US. So, when the architects and planners realized that the brick pit had to go to put in facilities for the summer Olympics in the year 2000, they had a problem. The 2000 Olympics has been touted as an environmental event with public transportation, recyclable snack plates, solar-heating, and grey-water recycling. Even some of the stadiums are being built with salvaged materials. "Thus, mashing an endangered species under bulldozers is a little out of place... to make matters worse, the frogs' distinctive green and gold stripes happen to be Australia's national sporting colors, which has given the frog a small but enthusiastic fan club pushing to have it named official Olympic mascot... marsupials are front-runners for the honor." A biologist noted the Olympic qualities of the frog, "[Frogs are] good at long-jumping and high-jumping... [koalas] sleep all day." The bell frog used to be much more common and was used for school dissections until Sydney's urban sprawl wiped out its habitat. About 1,000 frogs are left in the wild. Biologists hoped to build a bunch of new ponds and toad tunnels as part of the Olympic project to save the frog. Then, they learned of another factor in the bell frogs' decline. A fish imported to reduce mosquito larvae eats bell frogs, so any ponds built have to be separate from all other waterways. Also, they have to be deep enough to permit the frogs to escape predatory birds. "The frogs also have a taste for trashy decor. `You look under a nice rock and there's nothing there' said [a biologist]... `Then you pick up a piece of rotten old plastic and there's five frogs going ''Hey, put it back.'' It's a problem, because you can't exactly leave old car tires dumped around the site.'" So, they're building "designer rubbish" which has the characteristics seemingly enjoyed by the bell frogs, but has a nicer appearance for us humans. Each is stamped with "University of Sydney... Do not disturb." The frogs have not moved into the designer ponds, yet, but they did colonize a demolition site of an old slaughterhouse which will be the commercial hub of the Olympics. The development people were not pleased. But Australian law is on the frogs' side, so the developers must hop softly near the brick pit. One biologist pointed out that it's not just any old brick pit, but "The Green and Golden Bell Frog theme park." [August 2, 1995 from P.L. Beltz and Gary Casper]

Frogs do it

The "Bud" frogs are getting a lot of press, I do so hope some frog researchers have hit them up for research money. The first copy of the now-infamous Chicago Tribune Mike Royko column arrived from Daniel Kravitz [September 20, 1995]. Royko was in fine form describing what he called "one of the most peculiar sexually suggestive ads he's ever seen. So he called Illinois' state herpetologist, Chris Phillips, at the Natural History Survey to find out about frog sex. Royko summarized Phillips' description of frog sex as "Love 'em for two days and leave 'em, that's the credo of your male frogs... `It's really pretty brutal the way it all happens.' Obviously, he hasn't researched the bars on Lincoln or Halsted." The recent Bud frog ad campaign was created by DDB Needham of Chicago and uses animatronics-style animation techniques. The first Frogs commercial which was shown during last year's Super Bowl was done by D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles of St. Louis which no longer works for Bud. A representative of the new ad agency says that beer sales have been flat, or even down, and that Bud is hoping that the frogs give the product a new image for the peak 21- to 27-year-old market. [Chicago Tribune, September 4, 1995 from Lori King-Nava]

Cool, toepads!

A pair of young artists in Toronto, Canada have been wiping out graffitti by airbrushing large murals over the unsightly spraymarks. "Painting murals is much better than the typical bureaucratic response to graffitti..." remarked a councilor who noted that leaving a blank canvas for "taggers" seems to inspire more of the same. The photo with the article shows the young artists' latest work, a treefrog with eyes as big as basketballs sticking politely to a leaf. [Toronto Star, September 17, 1995 from Lou Mason]

Information request

The IUCN/SSC has formed a new group called the Invasive Species Specialist Group and is seeking information on introductions of Rana catesbeiana, specifically: 1.) Sites/countries of bullfrog introductions (if possible distinguishing between direct introductions, escapes from farms/ranches and incidental introductions via fish stocking). 2.) Information on the impacts on native fauna. 3.) Information on known eradication measures - successes or failures. 4.) Whether or not any known bullfrog farms/ranches have been economically viable. 5.) Any other comments of importance on the subject. Contact Michael Lannoo, Muncie Center for Medical Education, Room 209 Maria Bingham, Ball State University, Muncie IN 47306-0230 USA. Please include any references to literature cited in your remarks as well as your experience with herps, job title, etc. Personal observations are welcome, too. [Froglog, June 1995, Number 13]


Volunteer naturalists in Ontario have been recording anuran presence or absence after learning to identify the calls of the 14 different species found there. About a third of the volunteers live in rural areas, the remainder drive out to their designated route. The Canadian Task Force on Declining Amphibian Populations is working to establish more of these volunteer networks from coast to coast. [The Spectator, October 2, 1995 from Brian Bankowski]


Shedd Aquarium recently reported the successful laying, hatching and raising of more than 100 golden mantella frogs. The tiny frogs are less than an inch long and little had been known about their husbandry. These natives of Madagascar are in trouble due to commercial overexploitation and habitat destruction and were placed on the CITES list shortly after the Aquarium began their breeding program. The species was also protected by the Malagasy government and trade in the mantellas was banned absolutely. The Aquarium recreated the mantellas natural habitat in vivariums and in less than six months, the first tadpoles were produced. [WaterShedd, September/October 1995 from Karen Furnweger] Also, mark your calendars! Shedd Aquarium will have an all frog exhibit starting in May, 1996. I'll provide all the details as soon as they're available.

The National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD announced success with giant leaf tree frogs, a member of the poison dart frog group. Adults are the size of a nectarine, the baby looks to be about the size of a chorus frog. Scientists at the Aquarium have bred 22 other species of poison dart frogs, but this is the first reported success with Phyllomedusa bicolor in an institution. The article reports that it is believed the frogs can live to be 35 years of age. The Aquarium has had adults on exhibit for 12 years, but all the specimens were male. A female was added last year from Surinam. They found that their artificial rain system didn't do "it" for the frogs, and found out that a "pea-soup fog" was preferred by the anurans. The following morning, the female laid 1,947 eggs, each the size of a BB pellet. The eggs were laid on a leaf which the adults then rolled like a cigar and the male tried to fertilize them. Unfortunately, the leaf tipped over and many of the eggs weren't fertilized. About two weeks later, tadpoles emerged from the leaf and flipped into the water at the bottom of the vivarium. After metamorphosis, 23 froglets emerged. [Baltimore Sun, July 8, 1995 from Mark T. Witwer]

A Swede tooth?

More people in Sweden are bitten by adders than in any other European nation, according to a study by the Scottish Natural Heritage. Of the 77,000 people who have been bitten by adders in the last 125 years, 95 died. Among the mortalities, 44 were in Sweden, 25 in Switzerland, 14 in Britain, and 7 in Denmark. Only 12 percent of the victims were female. [New Scientist, December 2, 1995 from Michael Dloogatch] And are the vipers singing "How Swede it is to take a bite off you?"

Another good reason to quit drinking

Two men in Anniston, Alabama got a little tipsy after work and found a 4-foot rattlesnake. So they started to play catch with the snake, one catching it by the tail and throwing it to the other. The Emergency Service medic who was called said "Then the snake got tired of being caught by the tail." It bit one man on the hand; the other man tried to kill it. Then the snake bit the second man on the arm. He was pronounced dead at the Regional Medical Center about an hour later; and the first man was hospitalized. Medics said that they waited for an ambulance instead of driving directly to the hospital as soon as the bites occurred. [Gainesville Sun, September 8, 1995 from Ken Dodd; Houston Chronicle, September 9, 1995 from David E. Johnson]

Partners in slime?

Two guys in Alexander County, IL were out gigging frogs. They got busted. Seems they were doing it right in front of the site supervisor's home at Horseshoe Lake 1.5 hours before the frog season opened. [Chicago Tribune, August 23, 1995 from Steve Ragsdale]

Somebody swiped two red-tail boas and an 8-foot Burmese python from their home in Eustis, FL. The snakes' owner warns the big guy is hungry because he was due for a feeding when he was snatched. No clues were found by the sheriffs' office deputies assigned to the reptile heist. The owner is a junior at the University of Central Florida who hopes to teach high school science after he graduates. Animals not swiped included baby rat snakes, iguanas, a coachwhip, two albino pythons (over 50 pounds apiece), some hedgehogs and two bearded dragons. The owner said, "Come and get the stereo. I can replace that. Just bring my snakes back." [Orlando, FL Sentinel, November 8, 1995]

The Tony Lama Boot Company of El Paso, TX forfeited 907 pairs of boots worth more than $1 million after a federal investigation into the illegal trade of exotic animal skins. A grand jury returned a 15-count indictment against people who used a fraudulent permit to sell skins to the bootmaker. The 907 pairs in question were made of protected caiman skin; it takes four animals to make one pair of the $700 to $1,000 boots. [Austin American-Statesman, September 16, 1995 from William B. Montgomery]

Boas perish in school fire

Four adult boa constrictors and about 50 rats died in a fire in a science lab at a Fresno Middle School. Damages were estimated at about $300,000; repairs may take until September. The snakes appear to have started the fire with a heating lamp which had been placed inside their cage. Several other animals including three blue-tongued skinks, some mice and hissing cockroaches survived the fire. Several smaller snakes had recently been put in the science teacher's garage to hibernate. Although this is the fourth fire at a Fresno, CA school this year, officials are ruling out foul play. [The Fresno Bee, December 3, 1995 from Bob Hansen]

Frequent flyers club

America West Airlines refused to participate in a good-will effort by some 4th graders to ship a stuffed frog around the world saying "There are other people out there who aren't elementary school kids that could use a similar tactic to cause harm." The spokesperson suggested bombs could be hidden in such a container. [Chicago Tribune, May 23, 1995 from Steve Ragsdale]

Dave Barry strikes again! In a syndicated column published December 17, 1995 in the Chicago Tribune, Dave takes on the difficulty he has with the concept of loose snakes on airplanes. He describes the incident reported here earlier this year wherein a snake got loose from a gym bag and was noticed while it "planned" to "attack" a young passenger in the row behind its owner. The parents of the young passenger are suing the airline for megabucks. Dave writes: "As a frequent flier, I find this ironic. I mean, when I fly, I have to go through a checkpoint staffed by beady-eyed security personnel who act deeply suspicious about my laptop computer as though I'm going to leap up in the middle of the flight and yell, `Take this plane to Cuba, or I'm going to reformat my hard drive!' And yet these same personnel just let this guy waltz through carrying a major snake... On a recent flight I was handed a piece of alleged chicken that was much scarier than anything Sigourney Weaver ever fought with a flamethrower..." [Also, The Beacon Journal, December 3, 1995 from Jim Zimmerman]

February, 1995

Turtle-safe shrimp by May 1

A press release from the Sea Turtles Restoration Project reads: "70 Nations Must Adopt Sea Turtle Conservation Measures or Face Shrimp Embargo May 1. San Francisco (January 4, 1996)

In a ruling that is being called one of the greatest legal conservation victories for sea turtles, a federal judge has ruled that all countries that export shrimp to the United States must adopt sea turtle conservation measures for their shrimp fleet by May 1 or face an embargo of their shrimp products. The lawsuit was filed by Earth Island Institute, its sea turtle project director Todd Steiner, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, The Humane Society of the United States, and the Sierra Club.

"Judge Thomas J. Aquilino of the United States Court of International Trade (CIT), directed the Secretaries of State, Treasury and Commerce, the defendants in the case, to prohibit not later than May 1, 1996 the importation of shrimp or products of shrimp wherever harvested in the wild with commercial fishing technology which may affect adversely those species of sea turtles the conservation of which is the subject of regulations promulgated by the Secretary of Commerce on June 29, 1987... and to report the results thereof to the Court on or before May 31, 1996. The court, formerly called U.S. Customs Court, is in New York City.

"`This decision will save more than a hundred thousand endangered sea turtles from needlessly drowning in shrimp nets every year, ending the largest killing of endangered species occurring in the world right now,' said Todd Steiner, Director of Earth Island Institute's Sea Turtle Restoration Project. Steiner, a biologist, estimates that at least 124,000 turtles may be captured and killed every year in the nets of shrimp boats outside the United States.

"Turtle excluder devices have been required on most U.S. shrimp trawlers since 1989. The lawsuit was filed under a 1989 provision of the Endangered Species Act (PL 101-162) that required foreign vessels to reduce turtle mortality to levels comparable to those of the U.S. shrimp fleet as of May 1, 1991, as a condition for exporting shrimp to the United States. The State Department interpreted the provision to apply to just 14 Atlantic and Caribbean nations, and even those countries were not required to reduce mortality on their Pacific coasts. The court ruling compels the State Department to ban shrimp imports from all nations that have not reduced sea turtle mortality from shrimp fishing operations by 97 percent, the level that can be achieved with the proper use of TEDs on all vessels.

"About 70 countries export shrimp to the United States. The largest eight exporters to the United States (by weight) of wild caught (as opposed to farm-raised) shrimp are India, Indonesia, Thailand, Mexico, Malaysia, Brazil, Korea (ROK), and Japan.

"`This lawsuit has successfully accomplished what we set out to do: end the government's violation of the law in order to protect these vulnerable marine animals from ultimate extinction,'" said Josh Floum, an attorney [for] Heller, Ehrman, White and McAuliffe, which is representing environmentalists pro bono. Dr. John W. Grandy, a vice president of The Humane Society of the United States, said, `By accepting shrimp imports from countries that do not require their fleets to use TEDs, the United States inevitably contributes to the needless deaths of thousands of sea turtles. This is a wonderful victory for the turtles.' The decision (Slip Op. 95-208) was issued December 29, 1995. For more information, contact the Sea Turtle Restoration Project, or 415/488-0370." Individual herpetologists will want to get copies of the Earth Island brochure to pass along to retailers.

Iguana condos on tropical isle

A Caymanian project built 44 custom cages for their endemic Grand Cayman blue iguanas at a cost of $14,400 US. Occupancy is at present 75 percent, as 30 pure-breds have moved in. Volunteers for the National Trust will take care of the animals which range in age from just a few months to adults received from the wild. Funding came from The Zoological Society of Milwaukee County and The Foundation for Wildlife Conservation, Inc. The project's goal is to increase blue iguanas in the wild which are currently believed to number about 200. [The Caymanian Compass, December 22, 1995 from L.W. Reed]

Herp-Commercial News

The owner of a Schererville, IN pet store was arrested and released on charges of the "sale or transfer of deceased animals, a felony, and abandonment and neglect of animals, a misdemeanor" according to the Lake County prosecutor. Police had served a search warrant on the store and, accompanied by local Animal Control and the Northwestern Indiana Humane Society, removed about 100 kittens, tropical birds, rodents and reptiles including one venomous snake. The electric was shut off and locks changed by mall management, leaving the fate of aquariums of tropical fish to your imagination. [Northwestern Indiana Post-Tribune, October 19, 1995 from Jack Schoenfelder] The owner of Scales and Tails, an exotic pet shop, watched helplessly as firefighters battled a blaze which cost the lives of many of his animals. A rabbit and several reptiles were "saved by the improvised technique of attaching small oxygen masks over the animals' heads..." according to the Gainesville Sun. The owner said, "It's the most helpless feeling in the world to know your friends are suffering and there's nothing you can do about it." The fire began in a photo studio next door to the pet shop. More than 30 rescue workers responded to the alarm. [January 1, 1996 from K. Dodd]

A world without _______________?

The latest organisms to be reported missing in action are Southern Dusky Salamanders which have disappeared from Glen Springs, FL without any apparent cause. A biologist with the Florida Museum of Natural History said, "There's something odd going on. We don't know what it is." No apparent disruption in its watery habitat has been observed. [Gainesville Sun, January 5, 1995 from K. Dodd]

Meanwhile in Barton Springs near Austin, TX a group of specialists in engineering, biology and other disciplines have prepared a report which states that threats to the Barton Springs Salamander, an endemic species, are "real and growing." The report also proposes a series of hydrology projects including the installation of containment and channeling features to divert runoff and drainage from roads and other structures. At present, some new developments channel runoff directly into the recharge zones and spring habitats most at risk. Chemical and petroleum spills up-gradient from the springs need to be mopped up quickly and more attention paid to water quality monitoring, salamander population assessment, groundwater flow studies and testing for leaking sewage or increased sedimentation. Some Austin residents are speaking out against threats to the entire watershed which feeds Barton Springs. Unfortunately, "the salamander issue" raises two hot button topics, Texas-style: water and property rights. [Austin American-Statesman, September 24, 1995, two articles and original report from Chris Sanders who lives down the road from Barton Springs]

Some residents of the Galapagos Islands took over the road to the Darwin Research Station and the Galapagos National Park in September to protest the veto of a bill by the Ecuadorian President which had been drafted by a local congressman. The bill was proposed to limit immigration, regulate fishing, and establish quarantine to prevent spreading non-native species, however, opponents claimed it would have "put control of the park in the hands of local politicians." Upset by the veto, "a local mayor has also threatened to take tourists hostage and burn park areas," according to Science. The President of Ecuador plans to appoint a commission to draft a new law which may get to a vote soon. Workers at the Darwin Research Station e- mailed colleagues, "We are glad to be intact, but growing frustrated because the science and conservation efforts grow ever farther behind." [September 15, 1995 from Bill Burnett] More acreage burned in Brazil this year than ever before according to reports from health workers and satellite interpreters. Dry conditions may be leading to a series of accidental fires in areas previously burned over, but it appears that more virgin rainforest is burning, too. Brazil hosted the Earth Summit in 1992 but has not studied the extent of deforestation since 1991. A professor working with satellite pictures said, "There are millions of square kilometers covered with smoke in the Amazon basin. On one day, around August 30 we saw a smoke plume over 6 million square kilometers." [The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN, October 15, 1995 from Bill Burnett]

More than 30,000 species are threatened with extinction according to the United Nations' first comprehensive report on Earth's biodiversity. Only about 1.75 million species have been formally identified and named; the total is believed to be from 13 to 14 million. The 1,140 page Global Biodiversity Assessment resulted from the work of about 1,500 scientists worldwide. It reports that in the last four centuries, 484 known animal species and 654 recorded plant species have become extinct. [Post-Tribune, November 14, 1995 from J.H. Schoenfelder]

Living gators

Alligator wrestling continued at the Monroe County, Wisconsin County Fair in spite of protests by an animal protection group from Madison. County humane officers inspected the show which owners claimed to "promote education and preservation of alligators." [Wisconsin State Journal, July 21, 1995 from Dreux Watermoelen] Regular readers may recall a story from about a year ago in which the battle to legalize a pet alligator in Florida was initially reported. All 7.5 feet of Gwendolyn, the 25-year-old friendly backyard alligator, have been declared legal after his owner spent a year in court and $15,000 on legal defense. Gwendolyn was removed from the backyard habitat even though in the quarter century he'd lived with the same person, he'd caused not one single injury. A party, complete with Gatorade, was held after his return. [Miami Herald, October 30, 1995 from Alan Rigerman] It seems that pet alligator prosecutions are going to be a fad in Florida. The day after I received the Gwendolyn clip from Alan, I received the following letter: "Right now I'm in the same situation [as Gwen's owner]. When I was living in Idaho I acquired two baby American gators from a Louisiana farm. When I moved to Florida this summer, I brought them with. I've been hassling back and forth with Fish and Game, which first said I could get a personal use permit and gave me the form to fill out, now they are denying this and stating that I have to have an alligator farm or a commercial exhibit. I have two weeks to appeal... I do love my gators. Though close to five feet long they are tame. I have spent over $1,000 on a 30 foot chain link enclosed habitat with pool, and $500 on the lawyer... Sincerely, Ardis Allen."

High school students at Hahnville, Louisiana were unimpressed by a 3-foot gator seen sunning itself alongside the pond adjoining the school. "He's a small one," said one junior. An administrative assistant said, "It's like a pet. Some classes go out to the pond as a reward. There are turtles there, too." [New Orleans, LA Times-Picayune, May 3, 1995 from Ernie Liner]

"It was initially hard to tell who was less perturbed by the confrontation: Mr. Chatellier, the dog or the gator, which found its way onto the porch from the swamp behind the house on Pine Street," in Madisonville, LA according to the Times-Picayune. The man's wife said, "I'm actually more frightened of snakes." [April 14, 1995 from Ernie Liner]

A live 2.5-foot caiman was captured in Medina County, Ohio by a wildlife rescuer who initially identified his catch as an alligator. It was found in a family's backyard. They believe it was abandoned by neighbors who had recently moved. The rescuer said, "It's kind of sad, in a way. People get these animals as pets and then they throw them away." [Akron, OH Beacon Journal, July 6, 1995 from Bob Pierson] - Does anyone know what happened to the 3-foot alligator found in Park Forest, IL? The Chicago Sun-Times ran an article on August 19, 1995 that said the gator was found under a car which had stopped at an intersection in a residential area. The animal was reportedly taken to Brookfield Zoo which was keeping it in a holding area. [from Claus Sutor]

Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission officers raised 48 alligator eggs into hatchlings and released them into Lake Dora after two weeks of headstarting on hotdogs. The mother had been killed because she built her nest too close to the park's public walkway which was "obviously a threat to people. She very likely would've shown some very aggressive behavior," said a wildlife biologist. [Orlando, FL Sentinel, August 2, 1995; September 21, 1995 both from Bill Burnett]

Taxidermied alligators are popular again according to an article in the Leesburg, FL Daily Commercial. So who wants a stuffed gator anyway? "Restaurants, trading posts, souvenir places and photographers who take pictures of people standing on them. I also do a gator standing on his hind legs for Gator fans," said a Wildwood, FL taxidermist. Fully stuffed, he gets between $3,000 and 4,000 each. [May 7, 1995 from Bill Burnett]

Which genus would you rather be?

The September 20, 1995 Daily Commercial of Leesburg, FL reports: "Residents of seashore condominiums were surprised to see an alligator paddling in the Atlantic Ocean. Curious spectators flocked to the beach to see the wayward animal, normally found swimming or lazing around a swamp or freshwater lakes and streams." A gator trapper shot and killed the 7-foot animal on orders of officials of the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission. [from Bill Burnett] In a separate incident a 9-foot crocodile that was found chilled and groggy at Miami Beach was taped, trussed and driven back home to the Florida Keys in the back seat of a car. [Chicago Tribune, December 28, 1995 from Ray Boldt]

St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Bird Sanctuary

Birds are taking advantage of security services offered by the collection of 22 species of crocodilians on display in the nearly 100 year old St. Augustine farm. Raccoons have been decimating bird nests elsewhere, but "Nature's most effective built-in home security system" is at work in this swamp. A few fledglings are lost every year to the gators waiting below the trees. [The Daily Commercial, 25 August, 1995 from Bill Burnett] Why am I thinking "Cretaceous Park" here? Could this be an ecological driver for wings?

Hunting season, 1995

Louisiana wild alligator season opened September 2 and closed October 1, 1995. In June, state biologists surveyed nesting areas by helicopter to determine the start date for the season which is right after young alligators hatch. "Terrebonne Parish has excellent alligator habitat. There are other places, but [it] is in the top 10... There's the moisture, the bayous; nutria is the primary diet of alligators, and the habitat holds nutria," said a local expert. Wild alligators are getting to be a business down there with hides going for as much as $60 to $70 per linear foot. He added, "Those people in New Orleans will buy anything - heads, teeth, toes, jaws..." [Houma, LA Courier, July 9, 1995]

An 8-foot alligator was killed by licensed trapper on orders from the state Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission because it had attacked one of two men which had entered a pond on a closed golf course in search of "a lost golf club and golf balls" at night. The men had a sack of balls on the edge of the pond, when the gator pulled one young man below water. His friend got him away from the gator and took him to the hospital, but was too shaken up to be interviewed. The golf course has warning signs about its alligators. The course director said that the one involved in this incident was called Stubby because he had lost about 1.5 feet off his tail. Stubby was between 30 and 40 years old. The director added "[Stubby's] been around here as long as I have... There's gators in all of these ponds." [Orlando, FL Sentinel, July 25, 1995 from Bill Burnett]

"Hunting won't be a sport, some skeptic argue, until the deer start shooting back," Katherine Bouma wrote as the lead for an article about hunting alligators in Florida. One wonders what alligator hunting would be like if it were sporting! One gator that came close was an 12-foot, 5- inch male that just wouldn't give up. One hunter said, "He surged up out of the water and ripped metal off the side of the boat." They started taking on water and found a half dozen tooth holes in the boat. About one million alligators live in Florida; 3,498 hunting tags were issued. Curiously 8,909 people applied for $250 resident or $1,000 non-resident hunting licenses, and only 583 people won six alligator licenses each. The animals are sold to processors for $35 to 40 per foot for hides and meat. The minimum total taken in by the state by my calculation is $2,227,250. Environmental officials suggest that alligators will become an economic resource leading to habitat protection. [Orlando Sentinel September 19, 1995]

Florida hunting began in 1988 with 20,163 applicants in 1989 down to only 8,909 in 1995. Only 238 licenses were granted in 1988 compared with 583 in 1995. Each license is for six gators over 4-feet. From 1988 and 1994, hunters have taken 16,295 alligators. Also, 8,746 alligators were killed under "private land" permits. Thirty alligator farms collected 94,249 eggs from 1988 to 1994 from which 51,328 hatchlings emerged. Revenue from hide and meat sales in 1994 was $3.8 million in addition to tourism and licensing earnings. [Daily Commercial, November 8, 1995 from Bill Burnett]

South Carolina initiated its first legal alligator season in 31 years in 1995. About 100,000 alligators are believed to be living in the state which is twice as many as there were in the 1960s. About 200 permits were granted for a month-long season limited to private property owners in four counties on the coast. [USA Today, September 19 and 21, 1995 from Bill Burnett]

Revenge of the crocodilians

A 10-year old boy was treated for a tear and puncture wounds after being attacked by an alligator while swimming in 4 feet of water with other children at about 5 p.m. in a 1700-acre lake. Officials promised to hunt and kill the 8-foot gator responsible [Orlando, FL Sentinel, September 25, 1995 from Bill Burnett]

Jungleland in Kissimmee is going to have a hard time finding help if their unlucky streak persists. The Orlando Sentinel reports that a second alligator wrestler was bitten at the attraction. The first man needed 12 stitches in his chin and cheek, the second lost the tip of a finger and received three puncture wounds. [July 28, 1995 from Bill Burnett]

"Surgeons reattached the left hand of [a 37-year-old] trainer, who was attacked by a 6-foot Cuban crocodile at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm where he was feeding the reptiles..." USA Today, September 27, 1995 from Bill Burnett]

After one woman reported seeing a crocodile in a flooded section of the city of Bangkok, "Crocodile Fever" swept that town. Kind of like the boy crying "Wolf," no crocodile was ever photographed or proven to be present, but it got worldwide press. The clippings came in from Jack Schoenfelder [Northwestern Indiana Post], Ernie Liner [The Courier, Houma, LA], and J.N. Stuart [Albuquerque, NM Daily Lobo] all from September 29, 1995. Bill Burnett [The Commercial Appeal] and J.N. Stuart [Albuquerque Journal] both October 1 continue the tale: "Armed with electric prods, nets and rifles, the Thai navy set off in search of crocodiles Saturday as the government confirmed fears that hundreds of the reptiles are on the loose. Two weeks ago floods let loose about 300 of the animals from pits at farms north and east of the capital. The crocodiles were said to have slipped into the Chao Phraya River, which runs into Bangkok, and reportedly have bitten two villagers while they were fishing." Sounds like this urban legend is growing and growing.

Thanks to everyone who contributed

as well as to Ray Boldt, Kathy Bricker, Mark T. Witwer and Marty Marcus. Newspaper doesn't weigh much, so you can send whole pages or clippings with date/slug and your name (address labels are best) to me. Every clipping used or unused is acknowledged. Letters only via email.

March, 1995

Year of Snakefood

According to Chinese astrology, 1996 is the year of the Rat. Famous people born in previous Rat years include: Shakespeare, Mozart, Churchill, Washington and Truman Capote. Incidentally, the year 2000 is the next year of the Dragon followed by 2001, the year of the Snake. [Chinese restaurant menu]

Lights, driving, action!

The struggle between humans and sea turtles for Florida's beaches continued in 1995. Here's a running commentary on the issue from local journals. Please keep your eyes out this month as snowbirds arrive in Florida and Spring Break approaches, there may be more stories.

March 19, Palm Beach, FL Daily: "Town may strengthen lighting ordinance to protect turtles." Their existing ordinance prohibited lighting on a voluntary compliance basis to protect turtle nesting season, from April 1 to October 31. Hatchling sea turtles follow light. Before beach lighting, the sea reflected on the sky beckoned the tiny turtles into the surf. Now, cumulative megawatts of houses, cars, roadways, business signs and so on, drown out the ocean light in much the same way as orange street lights cancel starlight. Confused hatchlings have died after being attracted by artificial light. A research associate at the state's Department of Environmental Protection said, "I think [restricting beach lighting] is necessary because although no one really wants to see hatchlings die because of artificial lighting, not everyone remembers to turn off the lights." Town staff say few people in Palm Beach are not in compliance with the proposed ordinance since many buildings were built after the council prohibited beach-facing lights on new oceanfront construction in 1987. [from Kathy Bricker]

July 16, Daytona Beach, FL News-Journal: "Beach showdown. Turtle defenders hope lawsuit drives vehicles off sand." The County Attorney said, "I believe it's unlikely that the court would upset the status quo [driving on beaches]... without a strong showing of immediate harm, which we think is lacking." Residents and visitors are split nearly 50/50 on the issue of to drive or not to drive. Some believe that banning beach driving would "ruin the local economy." Others say that only two or three turtles a year are affected by driving without citing any source for their numerical belief. [from Philip Drajeske]

July 21, 1995 Daytona Beach News-Journal: "Artificial lights and tire ruts already have interfered with baby sea turtles' instinctive trek to the sea in seven instances since hatching started this month. Documentation on six of the seven... accompanied a brief... "

July 25 Orlando, FL The Sentinel: "Ormond Beach... About 100 baby turtles emerged from a nest... mistaking street lights for moonlight reflecting off the ocean, they scrambled up a beach ramp to busy [roads]... The turtles packed the intersection... at least 78 were crushed by cars... the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service... was notified..." Because the road lights are Volusia County property, "The incident caused much fingerpointing... over which agency was responsible for turning off the lights... A federal judge is trying to decide if Volusia County should be hit with an injunction to do more for sea turtles... toughen its coastal lighting ordinance and could prohibit driving on the beach during nesting season... `There were tons of turtles in the road,' said... a waitress at a nearby restaurant who dashed into the intersection to save the turtles. `I was frantic.'" [from Bill Burnett]

August 2 USA Today: "A federal judge in Orlando, FL banned nighttime driving or parking along 40 miles of seashore around Daytona Beach to protect endangered loggerhead and green sea turtle nests and hatchlings. The order is in effect until Nov. 1. The tradition of motoring and parking on the hard-sand beaches dates to the early 1900s." [From Bill Burnett and Steve Ragsdale Chicago Tribune]

August 4 Daytona Beach News-Journal: "Volusia keeps cars off beach for now. Beach-goers experience a rare sight Thursday on The World's Most Famous Beach - no cars (except beach ranger and lifeguard vehicles). The county has banned beach driving until further notice..." Some people were fuming, suggesting irreparable harm to the economy for every day it was closed. The beach was initially closed because of Hurricane Erin. Then came the U.S. District Judge's order to keep cars out of a 30 foot zone to the seaward of dunes where sea turtles place their nests and to get cars off the beach from one hour before sunset to one hour after dawn. So, the county banned all driving until it could be sure it was in compliance. [from Philip Drajeske]

August 5 Leesburg, FL Daily Commercial: Implementation of the judge's order is expected to take at least a week and the nighttime driving ban will do away with beach parking during Spring Break, 1996. Hundreds of thousands of collegiate visitors to Florida may be affected. The county manager said the judge's ruling was "prudent and reasonable." [from Bill Burnett]

August 12 Leesburg Daily Commercial: "For two days, the tides washed away many of the lightweight, plastic markers newly installed to designate turtle `conservation zones,' forcing officials to temporarily close portions of beaches to motorists [again]." The Orlando Sentinel reported "Many are tolerant of turtle postings..." One visitor observing construction of a car proof barrier said, "I think it's great. What's it for?" One resident said the markers would disrupt a volleyball tournament scheduled for the weekend. So far, Volusia has spent about $10,000 on 2,500 wooden posts needed mark the zone. [from Bill Burnett]

August 14 Daytona Beach News-Journal: "Three crews were scheduled to finish planting the row of four-inch by four-inch treated wood posts four feet into the sand, marking the edge of a conservation zone 30 feet east of the dune line... The county's environmental management department remeasured the conservation zone after high tide ... wiped out many PVC pipes placed Aug. 4 - 6... Two sections of beach will remain closed... until crews finish..." [from Philip Drajeske]

August 16 Daytona Beach News-Journal: "County's tab for turtle suit tops $100,000" That's just the legal bill for one month to an Orlando firm which lost the Federal case. The lead attorney on the suit said that future bills wouldn't be nearly as high. Some local residents are "aghast" that the county would have spent so much fighting a suit instead of finding ways to use it creatively to accomplish the same turtle protection goals it is now being forced to undertake. Buying beachfront land and studying preservation tactics were suggested as alternatives to litigation by the Volusia/Flagler Environmental Action Committee. [from Philip Drajeske]

August 19 Orlando Sentinel: "Abnormally prolonged high tides spawned by hurricanes Erin and Felix may have destroyed as many as 6,000 sea turtle nests in Brevard County, smothering 600,000 unborn turtles. As many as 1,000 of 4,000 turtle nests at the Canaveral National Seashore... may have been destroyed... turtle watchers said they have not seen any hatchlings emerge in Volusia since the storms... 37 nests in Walton County, which is in the Panhandle, were destroyed." [from Bill Burnett]

August 21 Orlando Sentinel: "In the debate over beach driving and turtle safety, six other counties look to Volusia... turtles have been harmed by cars in other areas... Nassau County, two hatchlings were smashed by a car last month... Flagler County, trucks and dune buggies drive on the beach, leaving deep ruts in the sand that can trap hatchlings. Driving is allowed day and night, but few vehicles go onto the beach because the sand is so soft." [from Bill Burnett]

December 7 Orlando Sentinel: Volusia County presented federal agencies with their conservation plan for sea turtles on county beaches. If accepted by the agencies, the county could apply for an "incidental take" permit by mid-Spring, 1996. Some turtle deaths on beaches would therefore be allowed and the terms of all this are to be covered in the conservation plan and agreement. The county's plan is less "severe" on humans than what the Federal Judge ordered in midsummer. [from Bill Burnett]

Not quite their year anyway

As if the town of Daytona Beach hadn't enough excitement with the sea turtle injunction, the following also happened in 1995:
  • more recorded shark bites (16) than ever before;
  • several weeks of stinging jellyfish named "Portuguese men-of-war" and dangerous rip tides;
  • reduced beach-driving toll revenues $3.2 million in 1995 down $400,000 from 1994; and
  • unusual tides due to the high number of hurricanes.
The traditional beach season opened February 1. The county passed increased fees to make up for the revenue loss to the treasury of night driving. [Gainesville, FL The Sun, January 1, 1996, from K. Dodd]

A ship in time saves ten

The U.S. Navy just saved the lives of some sea turtles after sailors in a helicopter spotted 11 turtles tangled in an abandoned fishing net. One turtle drowned, ten were saved after two hours of cutting by five crewmen in an inflatable boat dispatched by the guided missile frigate USS Curts. The net was drifting about 375 miles west of Bombay, India. [Albuquerque, NM Journal, October 21, 1995 from J.N. Stuart]

Other turtle and tortoise tales from 1995

The Tennessee Senate approved two herps as official state critters: the cave salamander and the box turtle. The bill was prepared by school students studying herpetology and legislation in class. [Memphis, TN Commercial Appeal, May 25, from Bill Burnett] Quite a curriculum! On a lighter turtle note, the London, Ontario, Canada Free Press reported that 300 turtles registered for the 21st annual Ailsa Craig Gala Days turtle race. The races were busted by Provincial Police in 1984 after receiving a tip that people were betting on the outcome. In 1993, the Ontario Fish and Game Act amendments made it illegal to trap midland painted turtles. Race organizers appealed for a permit to trap and release contestants. It was granted under the condition that turtle education is provided to participants. [July 11, 1995 from Ted Teachout]

A four-lane bypass of Mississippi Route 63 is on hold until land can be found to establish a gopher tortoise habitat. The only suitable nearby parcel is owned by a person who does not wish to sell. [Memphis, TN Commercial Appeal, December 12, 1995 from Bill Burnett]

In Florida, Uncle Donald's Farm in Lady Lake has participated in rehabbing gopher tortoises over the years. Two of their resident tortoises just hatched three babies which are reported to look just like their parents, but smaller [Orlando Sentinel, October 16, 1995 from Bill Burnett]

A Nevada Department of Transportation has approved spending $300,000 for the next two years to help Clark County dig tortoise tunnels and minimize roadway impacts for desert tortoises. [Las Vegas, NV Review-Journal, February 14, 1995 from Bob Pierson]

Clark County, NV commissioners unanimously voted to spend $40 million over the next 30 years to protect desert tortoises while maintaining development and economic growth. The County prepared and submitted a conservation plan to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a temporary permit which has been in effect for four years will be replaced by a more permanent agreement. A development fee equal to about $110 for a standard house will be assessed. Fees will be deposited in the tortoise trust fund and monies will be disbursed for closing roadways and building tortoise tunnels under other roads. Research to guide management objectives will also be funded by the trust. No one appeared before the Commissioners to complain about the final plan after years of controversial public hearings. [Las Vegas Review-Journal, July 19, 1995 from Bob Pierson]

Another report from the Review-Journal points out that the long-term Clark County plan includes maintaining a 500,000 acre protected desert tortoise habitat and adds, "So maybe this long-range plan is a better deal for the desert tortoise. It acknowledges that we can't really protect the species on private land and asks developers to pay for their preservation... Anyone who bought a quarter-acre lot would be paying about $135 to help buy desert tortoise habitat... a small price to teach our children about conservation... Time will tell if it turns out for the best. And for the desert tortoise, which has been around for 160 million years, time is running out." [July 29, 1995 from Bob Pierson]

Twenty-Nine Palms, California is not the most tranquil site on earth. In fact Marine F-18 jets and other military ordinance, however, has to be put on hold whenever a desert tortoise is spotted on the 6,000 acres marked as "out of bounds: tortoise nesting areas." [New Orleans, LA Times-Picayune, February 5, 1995 from Ernie Liner]

Texas is home to the endangered Gopherus berlandieri which now have a rehab center on Freeman Ranch near San Marcos where they receive veterinary care, shell patches, reconstructive surgery and a diet rich in prickly pears and other native plants. The ranch is run by the Chair of Southwest Texas State University's Biology Department and one of the experts on the species, Francis L. Rose. [Houston, TX Chronicle, April 23, 1995 from Ethelyn L. Rieves]

Turtle and Tortoise Societies

A woman who found a large box turtle trying to cross the Airport Road in Williamsburg, VA two years ago now has 22 turtles visiting, some will need permanent care. She founded the Williamsburg Turtle and Tortoise Society which now has more than 50 members who find caretakers for sick or injured turtles found by local residents. The Virginia Gazette wrote that while there are no dues to join, donations are always in fashion. They have a bimonthly newsletter, field trips and regular meetings. [July 26, from Kathy Bricker]

The Houston Turtle and Tortoise Society was founded to promote environmental consciousness of the value of turtles and tortoises in their natural habitat. The Society disseminates information and places animals for adoption. [from Ethelyn Rieves]

The non-profit Organization for the Protection of Nevada's Resident Tortoises, Inc. publishes a newsletter three times a year, arranges for speakers for other community groups and meetings, provides adoption services, and adoption guidelines and operates a lost tortoise pickup service throughout Clark County.

The eight-year-old Chicago Turtle Club emerged from hibernation with plans for an April 14 meeting at North Park Village from one to three p.m., they plan to have a turtle show and tell. Old friends and new friends are invited. Parking is available just outside the Nature Center. Contact Lisa Koester for more information.

Brought to you by readers like yourselves

The Turtle Recovery Program of the Wildlife Conservation Society reported on its sixth year of operation assisting conservation of populations of wild turtles on all continents. I am pleased to report that the number of individuals supporting the program has increased, from one paragraph to three pages of the "who's who" of turtle/tortoise lovers. Last year the TRC was involved with conservation of the bog turtle, regulation of international trade in box turtles, gopher tortoise relocations, sea turtle community ecology in Panama, effects of harvesting green turtles in Nicaragua, ecology and management of yellow-spotted Amazon river turtles in Colombia, sustainable use program for the same turtle in Venezuela, a study of forest turtle ecology in a Cameroon Forest Reserve and of tortoises and turtles at a Tanzanian National Park, support for programs for the radiated tortoise in Madagascar, conservation of two rare land tortoises in the Western Ghats of India, turtle community ecology in Thailand, and monitoring and recovery of Testudo graeca nikolskii on the Black Sea Coast of Russia. The tales behind these brief clauses are contained in the TRP yearly report and make fascinating reading. In addition, the TRP is close to publishing Conference Proceedings from "Conservation, Restoration, and Management of Tortoises and Turtles" held in 1993 and cosponsored by the New York Turtle and Tortoise Society. The book is expected in early 1996. So, turtle lovers, get your checkbooks out and write your 1996 support for the "W.C.S.-Turtle Recovery Program." Every donation is tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law and annual reports are available. Mail to: Michael W. Klemens, Wildlife Conservation Society, 185th Street and Southern Boulevard, Bronx, NY 10460. [Every $10, $20, $100 or zillion helps. EB]

Spotlights, please!

In addition to acknowledging this month's contributors, E.A. Zorn, Mark T. Witwer, No Name on Clipping, J.N. Schoenfelder, and Dreux Watermoelen, deserve thanks for sending articles, cards, photos, and so on that I found really interesting but couldn't quite figure out how to summarize. You can contribute, too. Send reptile/amphibian stories from your local paper by forwarding the whole page(s) or clippings with date/slug attached. Some people save clippings themselves, others save photocopies because eventually clippings fade. Copyright law prohibits me from urging you to make copies of newspaper stories for anything other than your own use. However you contribute, make sure your name is on every story.

April, 1996

War on the newts

CHS member David Blatchford reports "At the moment, the [British] Government is enthusiastically constructing a major new road through a nature reserve in Berkshire" where the crested newts live. "This will destroy at least two sites of special scientific interest. [The government is] anxious to chop down as many trees as possible before the bird nesting season starts as then the Ministry of Roads will be [not be] liable for criminal proceedings for... killing nesting birds." Probably the Queen is more interested in the end of the Di/Chuck breeding season than that of the crested newts, but you could write His Royal Highness Prince Philip at Buckingham Palace, London, England, U.K. The Prince is a world-renowned nature lover and was the Royal Sponsor of the First World Congress of Herpetology in Canterbury in 1989.

Reptile investigation on four continents

February 1, 1996 CITES press release: "Suspected smugglers of various reptiles were served search warrants by special agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The warrants were issued as part of an international investigation involving reptiles illegally imported from Indonesia, Australia, the Netherlands, and other countries. The investigation into reptile smuggling in the United States was initiated by a request for assistance from the Netherlands Ministry of Justice, Netherlands National Police, and the Netherlands Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Conservation, and Fisheries.

"Federal search warrants were executed in New York, Florida, North Carolina, and New Mexico in coordination with other warrants executed at businesses and residences in Indonesia and the Netherlands. Officials from the Netherlands uncovered the elaborate smuggling scheme involving live reptiles, including the frilled dragon (Chlamydosaurus kingii), shipped out of Indonesia, into the Netherlands, and then on to other European countries and the United States.

"The United States is the world's largest importer of wildlife and in recent years the demand for live reptiles as collectibles and exotic pets has increased rapidly. The species of reptiles involved in the investigation, including the frilled dragon, the fly river turtle (Carettochelys insculpta), the green tree python (Morelia viridis), and two species of blue-tongued skinks (Tiliqua gigas and Tiliqua multifasciata), are highly prized by collectors in Europe, Japan, and the United States. Specimens of these species may sell in the United States for $250 to $1,500 each. These animals are protected by law in their countries of origin and their export is tightly controlled (the green tree python is also listed on CITES Appendix II). Although some of these species can be bred in captivity, the high level of demand by reptile collectors often encourages smuggling of wild-caught specimens.

"The Netherlands police began their investigation into the illegal trafficking of protected reptiles from Indonesia in September 1994. They gathered information for more than a year before initiating an official request for assistance through international channels to the U.S. Department of Justice. Through an agreement with the Kingdom of the Netherlands, known as the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, the United States and the Netherlands provide a broad range of cooperation with each other in criminal matters. Special agents of the FWS were chosen to assist the Department of Justice because of their expertise in wildlife import, export, smuggling, and illegal commercialization offenses.

"The FWS and Netherlands and Indonesian authorities continue to investigate illegal trade in reptiles. Reptile smugglers in the United States face possible Federal conspiracy, smuggling, false statement, and money laundering charges. The investigations in the United States are being coordinated by the U.S. Attorney's Offices in Miami, FL, New York, NY, Greensboro, NC, and Albuquerque, NM, with support from attorneys in the Wildlife and Marine Resources Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice. Inquiries about this investigation can be addressed to Mr. Bruce Weissgold or Mr. Ernest Mayer, both with the FWS Division of Law Enforcement (703-358-1949)." [From James N. Stuart via Internet]

Golden toad update

"The breeding habitat of the golden toad has been monitored by either experienced volunteers or paid staff every year since their disappearance in 1989. There have been a couple of false alarms (e.g. Eleutheradactylus that are very orange) but no confirmed sightings since the single male I caught in 1989. The hypothesis we presented was not simply that rainfall was inadequate, but that the transition from dry season to wet was too abrupt and this disrupted the toads' natural breeding pattern. Alan Pounds subsequently presented an analysis of the El Nino events of the early 1980s and their possible effects on the hydrology of the site. Alan hypothesizes that the toads were extirpated by an underground drought. His paper was published in Conservation Biology in about 1992 or 1993. One attempt was made to age golden toads thru skeletochronology on toe tips that were removed as part of a mark-recapture protocol. No rings were apparent in the bone. Thus we really have no idea of how long the toads live. The golden toad may represent one of the few (only?) vertebrate extinctions that has been observed and recorded by humans, but not caused by humans. On the other hand, we're keeping our fingers crossed that they will reappear, and keeping in touch with the people who monitor the habitat. Frank Hensley, Elon College & Duke University" [via Internet]

10,000 box turtles to emigrate?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) accepted public comments until March 4, 1996 before deciding whether or not to permit up to 10,000 wild-caught American box turtles to be exported from Louisiana to Europe, for pets. The New York Turtle and Tortoise Society (NYTTS) urged all turtle-lovers to reply before the deadline, which (as always) was just too short to get it into print for the majority of CHS members. The situation is described in Allen Salzberg's press release: "At least seven million American turtles representing dozens of species are exported annually from the U.S. to other countries, mostly to Europe and Asia. Some are used as pets while others are used as food. Turtles that are exported from the U.S. die by the thousands every year during air transport, due to improper packaging and poor treatment prior to shipment. Some turtles are shipped in cardboard boxes where they are often crushed to death under their own weight or when other boxes are stacked on top of theirs. Many turtles are shipped are wounded, dehydrated or diseased. Few turtles survive long after they are purchased because buyers do not know how to provide them with the proper diet and environmental conditions. Most turtles mature late in life and have high juvenile mortality, so human capture of wild turtles is one of the leading causes of turtle population declines worldwide...

"American box turtles (Terrapene spp.), which can reach up to eight inches in length, are native to most U.S. states, except for those in the far north and west. Turtle collectors capture large, sexually mature adults, leaving wild populations depleted of breeders. This is particularly damaging to box turtle populations since the turtles can take five to 20 years to become sexually mature and lay only two to eight eggs per year. Although many U.S. states ban collection of box turtles for the pet trade, the legal trade in some states provides a cover for a substantial illegal trade in box turtles collected from states that have banned the trade.

"In 1994, American box turtles were listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a United Nations administered treaty governing the international commercial trade in wildlife that has been signed by 130 nations. In order for box turtles to be exported from the U.S., the FWS must find that the export of box turtles will not be detrimental to the survival of the species and that the turtles will shipped in a humane manner...

"In 1995, FWS allowed the export of up to 9,750 eastern box turtles (Terrapene carolina) from Louisiana (no other state was allowed to export box turtles). FWS Scientific Authority admitted, in a memorandum of advice to FWS Management Authority, that they knew nothing about the size of box turtle populations in Louisiana, the basic biology of box turtles (other than age to maturity and growth rates), the number and age of box turtles collected in Louisiana, or the effect of collection on box turtle populations. The Scientific Authority stated that "we have been asked to make our finding without having had time to conduct a thorough population status assessment or review results of any existing population or harvest potential studies in Louisiana or nearby areas." The Scientific Authority warned that "based on studies of other species of turtles or tortoises exhibiting life history characteristics similar to those of box turtles (e.g. low adult mortality, high longevity, delayed sexual maturity, low fecundity), it can be assumed that box turtle populations will not rebound quickly from adverse changes in key population parameters. General declines in box turtle densities over the past several decades in various northern populations that have been studied extensively lend support to this prediction." The Service considered the 9,750 export quota to be "cautious", noting that they believed that this figure represented half of the number of box turtles that had been collected and exported from Louisiana in 1993."

The FWS Scientific Authority consulted with an entity referred to as the "Louisiana Reptile and Amphibian Task Force," that stated "there is no evidence to indicate that native box turtles are endangered or threatened in Louisiana." NYTTS stated: "The Task Force is not competent to determine the status of box turtles in Louisiana. The majority of the voting members of the Task Force are turtle trappers and traders, posing a clear conflict of interest. By Louisiana law, the voting members of the Task Force are: Five pet dealers, three representatives from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, one member of the Louisiana Wildlife Federation, one member of the Louisiana Science Teachers Association, and one representative from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. The three university herpetologists who advise the Task Force, do not have a vote. One herpetologist recently quit his advisory role because the Task Force would not listen to him."

Other points with which the NYTTS disagrees with the FWS Scientific Authority include resilience or lack thereof to collecting pressures, the establishment of export quotas based on what the box turtle exploitation "industry" considers its desired level of export, the absence of valid population data, the lack of a management system for box turtles in Louisiana, the overt influence of industry representatives on the advisory board, the absence of long-term population studies to know if the populations can sustain a 10,000 per year harvest level, and FWS concern with interruption of trade by legitimate businessmen and the establishment of a black market.

The NYTTS release continues: "The synergistic effect trade and destruction of box turtle habitat needs to be addressed. In some areas, such as northeast Louisiana, box turtle habitat is being destroyed, fragmented and subjected to chemical pollution from the use of pesticides in adjacent fields. Clear-cutting and the use of fire in the management of Louisiana's forests also impact box turtles, as does road building, which increases access by collectors to box turtle habitat and also increases the number of road kills.

"Captive breeding of box turtles is not feasible. Wild turtle populations may be detrimentally affected by removal of animals for breeding stock. It would be difficult to distinguish among captive-bred turtles and wild-caught ones in trade. It would take turtles years to become sexually mature and reproductive rate is low. Disease outbreaks on turtle "farms" may infect wild turtle populations.

"International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulations for transport of live box turtles are routinely violated by airlines and box turtles are cleared for export by Fish and Wildlife Service agents even when these regulations are violated. Certain ports, such as Miami and New Orleans, are well-known among turtle exporters for their leniency. The IATA regulations for shipping turtles should be improved by eliminating the use of corrugated cardboard boxes, and ensuring that turtles are, at all times during the transport process, kept at between 65-80 degrees F."

An article in the June, 1995 Harrowsmith Country Life magazine reported that "according to the U.S. FWS, some 78,000 box turtles were shipped to Europe between 1992 and 1994." Then in winter 1994-1995, the turtles were added to CITES appendix which meant they had to have a permit to be exported. The current request for information is related to the permit application to export 10,000 Louisiana box turtles. While it is too land to officially comment on the permit application, CHS members interested in commenting to the responsible agency can write: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Scientific Authority, Room 750, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA 22203.

Breeding and selling tiny turtles

Remember dime-store sliders? Louisiana turtle breeders hope to bring back the ubiquitous pet of yesteryear after trying for years to overturn the Federal Food and Drug regulation which prevents domestic sale of turtles with a carapace length of less than four inches. The breeders have been busy building up an overseas market. Last year 6.5 million baby turtles were shipped out of the country. The breeders claim the babies have been cured of Salmonella bacteria by means of a method developed by a Louisiana State University microbiologist Ronald Siebeling. Only 2 percent of baby turtles hatched at the farms have been found to carry the bacteria. Turtle farming is regulated by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, but has recently come under fire for alleged price fixing by the U.S. Department of Justice. Farmers deny price fixing; one said, "What we've got here is the cleanest, most documented pet in the world." [The Baton Rouge, LA Sunday Advocate, February 5, 1995] In Mississippi, turtle farmers are not as common as catfish farming, cotton, soybeans or rice farming. Even so, one farm sold 350,000 babies in one year, the offspring of 50,000 to 60,000 wild-caught breeder turtles. Two-thirds went to Southeast Asia, the rest to Canada, Europe and the People's Republic of China. Some of the offspring are retain for future breeding purposes and a very few are released in the wild. The Salmonella cleansing process is done to the Mississippi eggs, too, mostly by school kids earning summer money. [Houma, LA Courier, August 13, 1995. Both articles from super-clipper Ernie Liner]

Large turtle breeding

Turtle watchers in the Florida Keys said that 1994 was the biggest green-turtle nesting season ever, but indicate that hatchling mortality due to human influence and animal predation was high, too. Residents of the Keys are required to aim lights away from beaches and reduce interior lighting which may disorient hatchlings. Also in 1994, the toughest sentence of a turtle egg thief (to that time) was handed down for a man who took about 500 turtle eggs. He got a year in jail and paid $11,250 in fines. Volunteers are being sought for the 1996 season. [Florida Keys Keynoter, May 20, 1995 from Dee Fick]

According to researchers at the primary Kemp's ridley breeding beach, 1995 was the biggest arribada of Lepidochelys kempi in 18 years. Around 1,800 nests were laid which is almost twice as many of the all time low 702 in 1985. All the eggs laid on the beach are transplanted to a fenced hatchery in an effort to protect them from coyotes, coatimundis and other predators. [Center for Marine Conservation Marine Conservation News, Winter 1995 from Kathy Bricker]

About a year ago, U.S. Senator John Breaux (D-LA) suggested raising more sea turtles in captivity so that shrimp trawlers would not have to be outfitted with turtle excluder devices (TEDs). [The Courier, May 16, 1995 from Ernie Liner] Then August 1, environmental organizations won a court case which requires TEDs on all shrimp nets in the Gulf of Mexico. The court case continues, however and the Texas Shrimp Association has filed a proposal with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to waive TED regulations for vessels outside a 10 kilometer limit. Then, in the budget battle, Congress proposed prohibiting NMFS from closing the shrimp fishery regardless of the number of sea turtles killed and required that only the shrimpers be allowed to monitor the number of dead turtle strandings. The last proposal was attached to a Department of Commerce appropriations bill. [Marine Conservation News, Winter 1995 from Kathy Bricker] In March 1996, Congress shot down a bill which would have permitted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to resume listing endangered species. [R. Featherstone via Internet]

Thanks to everyone who contributed this month

and to Mark Witwer, Jack Schoenfelder, Bill Burnett, Marty Marcus and K.S. Mierzwa for stuff I read, but didn't use. Only 2.45 percent of the total CHS membership has contributed to this column in the past year. Let's up the average, hey? Send whole pages of newspaper, or clippings with the date/slug firmly attached with tape. Please put your name on every page. Return address labels work really well for this; several of my super-clippers get rid of all those freebie labels on their clippings. Others use rubber stamps, while Ernie Liner autographs each page with lovely flowing script.

May 1996

No legal export permitted

In a decision which surprised even turtle supporters, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced on March 21 that the export quota for box turtles from Louisiana will be zero for 1996. Allen Salzberg of the New York Turtle and Tortoise Society reports: "There simply was not enough scientifically valid evidence supplied by Louisiana to support the U.S. government giving them a non-detriment finding as they must according to CITES, [specifically] that the collection of box turtles will do no harm to the wild population. The official in charge was quoted as saying this was clearly and repeatedly pointed out in the overwhelming number of letters they received from herpetologists and concerned citizens... We expect the state to respond, and other reptiles are being exploited overseas in a similar manner. So, stay tuned and keep your pens handy. Thank you to all who wrote in and spread the word." If you have an e- mail address, send it to Allen and ask to be added to the NYTTS rapidresponse team. NYTTS, 163 Amsterdam Avenue #365, New York, NY 10023. A scary thought was put forward by John Behler of the Wildlife Conservation Society/New York Zoological Society in comments on the box turtle export proposal: "We are in fact exporting our turtle disease problems around the world and the potential for problems of epidemic proportions to wild stocks is high." P.C.H. Pritchard, author of "Turtles of the World," observed: "The data presented indicate an extremely low incidence of turtles of less than adult size... a more probable explanation is that few turtles of these age and size groups are appearing in the commercial collections because they are intrinsically few in a given wild population." After reading the letters from these and other experts, it's easy to see why FWS set the export quota at zero. There was simply no scientific data to show that box turtle populations in Louisiana could sustain any commercial harvest.

New news on newts at risk

Hanson Trust land developers and crested newts in Huntingdon County, England have arrived at a stalemate. Hanson wants to built 5,000 houses, schools and shops on a green field site which contains the largest colonies of Triturus cristatus in Europe. The British Herpetological Society (BHS) has refused to participate in newt relocation. So developers approached English Nature, an organ of the national government. English Nature agreed to move the newts, but World Wildlife Fund protested and threatened court action under European laws which protect the species. A report in the October, 1995 BHS Newsletter reads: "If 30,000 newts could vote, John Major would be out. The great crested newt is to the British pond what the tiger is to the Indian jungle... over the past 100 years, 90 percent of the ponds in which these magnificent amphibians used to live have been filled in and built upon. Many of the ponds that remain are so saturated with fertilizers from local farms that the newts can no longer live in them... In most of the rest of Europe, acid rain has decimated [them]... Lord Hanson... stands to lose 30 million if he is not allowed to go ahead in fill the ponds in to build 5,000 homes [as well as schools, shops and infrastructure] ... English Nature's [spokesperson] said `The main thing is to protect the newts, not the habitat.'... The sad truth is that most of the greater crested newts will be guided by their homing instinct back to the original site, where they will be crushed to death in their thousands under the wheels of Lord Hanson's bulldozers... It does not take a great mathematician to work out that the current site holds just over 13 newts per acre. If 30,000 newts really are going to be captured and relocated on the new 80 acre site, they would find themselves crammed into a habitat containing 375 newts per acre. Surely no habitat could sustain enough food for such voracious predators, let alone room to hide, hibernate and breed... " The British Herpetological Society deserves a lot of credit for their efforts to try and stop the destruction of the homes of 30,000 primordial residents with nowhere else to go. Letters in support of the newts can be sent to Lord Cranbrook (Chairman) English Nature, Northminster House, Peterborough, PE1 1UA, United Kingdom.

Follow-up stories

  • Last August, we reported the death of a mother of five after an envenomation in a snake- handling church in Kentucky. The children had been placed with a Cleveland, TN family, but now a Tennessee Supreme Court judge has ruled that their father should have permanent custody. The ruling stipulates that the father, who is a snake-handling minister, must not take the children to churches where venomous reptiles are handled, nor keep venomous snakes in the home. Both rulings may interfere with the minister's freedom of religion and the family which formerly had custody has vowed to appeal the ruling to a higher court in addition to asking a grand jury to convene on circumstances leading to the death of the children's mother. [Memphis, TN Commercial Appeal, December 22, 1994]
  • A man bitten by a rattlesnake in a rural Texas Wal-Mart store was awarded $6,000 in damages. [Memphis, TN Commercial Appeal, February 16, 1996 from Bill Burnett; Austin American-Statesman, February 15 from Bill Montgomery]
  • CHS member Joseph Jannsen, staff biologist at the Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery and Aquarium in Cold Spring, NY writes that red-eared sliders are becoming "an environmental nuisance on Long Island... common pet store turtles, raised on `turtle farms' down south... at one time were sold in just about every store, along with the plastic bowl setup containing a plastic palm tree..." Most baby red-ears died; the survivors, however, can reach 10 inches. "Here lies the problem. First it is unfair to drop your captive pet in an unfamiliar environment to which it is not even native..." Native painted turtles have been disappearing from Long Island and "other parts of the country where the red-eared slider has been introduced. Both turtles are occupying the same ecological niche." Painted turtles are losing. "The Hatchery receives 40 to 50 [red- ears] each year from people who no longer want them.... Never release the animal into a local lake or pond... [for] if we are not careful, the painted turtle, considered one of our most abundant turtles, may disappear forever." [Fish Hatchery News, Winter, 1995]

Horrid cruelty in Florida

Fourteen years of sharing property with gopher tortoises made a Venice, FL resident familiar with his neighbors, so he knew something was wrong when he saw one writhing and dragging its hind legs. At first, he just put the tortoise in its burrow, but later noticed that it wasn't eating. Animal Control workers took the tortoise to a vet who found that someone had tightly bound its hind legs with rubber bands. Both legs had to be partly amputated. The resident said, "We've just been so beside ourselves that we've got somebody living in our neighborhood, or visiting, that would do something like that." [Gainesville, FL Sun, January 1, 1996 from Ken Dodd]

Kindness in China

The Beijing Review reports that a green turtle rescued, treated and released by Chinese Navy sailors rejoined his "saviors" 100 kilometers away from where it had been let go the first time. In July of 1995, the turtle had swum around the ship several times before the sailors noticed it was injured and its wounds had festered. It was captured, treated and held for two weeks while it healed. Then the sailors wrote "setting free" on its carapace in red paint and put the turtle back in the ocean. [December 3, 1996 from P.L. Beltz]

Envenomation roundup

  • A 28-year-old Maryland man almost lost his chance to become 29 when he was bitten by a Gaboon viper he has been keeping for about a year. The bite reportedly occurred after he had placed a water bowl in the Gaboon's enclosure. He picked up the viper, planning to put it closer to the bowl, when the snake struck and envenomated him. The man was taken to the county hospital and treated with antivenin provided by the National Zoo in Washington and the Philadelphia Zoo. The reptile curator at the latter institution described Gaboon envenomation, "There is immediate pain at the site of the injury, dizziness and nausea, swelling and loss of the ability of the blood to clot." After his recovery, the man reportedly plans to have the snake put down. [Washington Post, March 1, 1996 from Kathy Bricker]
  • An Albuquerque, NM man was hospitalized after a bite from a pet rattlesnake. Investigating animal control officers found a foot-long alligator, several 2- to 2.5-foot rattlesnakes and a 3- foot python in the home. County regulations require registration of exotic fauna, but possession is legal. [Albuquerque Journal, February 2,1 996 from J.N. Stuart]

Jerry Garcia's ghost?

Call it instant karma. A 36-year-old Texas man killed a timber rattlesnake by cutting off its head. When he went to pick the head up, the dead head bit him. The 36-year-old was taken to the hospital by ambulance and then sent to another hospital with better facilities. He stopped breathing twice during transport, but was resuscitated both times. He was on life support for a couple of days and was then kept under observation for a few more. [Elgin Courier, October 11, 1995 from Bill Montgomery]

Souvenir salmonella

Fifty visitors to the Denver Zoo got sick with a rare strain of salmonella bacteria they picked up when they visited or petted Komodo Dragons at the zoo's "Dragon Days" festival. Health workers speculate that the dragons defecated in the temporary wooden enclosure and then spread the bacteria around with their feet and tails. Visitors who petted the dragons or merely hung on the barrier were affected, suggesting that the bacteria was fairly widely spread around the exhibit. One child was hospitalized with a 104-degree fever, bloody diarrhea and vomiting. He reportedly had held some straw from the pen. The victims ranged from four- to 23-years-old, although most were under 14 according to an epidemiologist with the Colorado Health Department. The Komodos are back behind glass and the zoo says they'll never be out to touch again. [Phoenix Gazette, March 1, 1996 from Tom Taylor; Houston Chronicle, March 2 from David E. Johnson]

"Sometimes, we become so comfortable with our pets and the animals we handle at the [Akron, OH] Zoo that we forget the `hazards'... and become complacent... Parents need to be made aware that children could become ill if they put their hands in their mouths while handling, or after handling reptiles... keep reptiles away from areas where food is prepared and [do] not wash aquariums, cages, food dishes, etc. in the kitchen sink. Also, if you clean containers in a bathtub or sink... [wash well] with soap and water before being used to wash or bathe in... [no] reptiles in childcare centers... [Caution] anyone with a weakened immune system, including pregnant women, to avoid reptiles..." [Akron Zoological Park Edzoocation/Information, February 1996 from Jim Zimmerman]

Guidelines issued recently by the U.S. Department of Health prevent the keeping of live animals where food is cut, prepared, or distributed. Local health agencies should be alerted if turtles or frogs are being kept live in grocery stores due to the risk of salmonella. [Allen Salzberg, NYTTS March 15, 1996]

Environmental toll

Automobile tolls collected on Florida's highway known as "Alligator Alley" will be the first highway in the nation to direct its monies to environmental projects. The state agency in charge of water resources in the area will direct the spending. The project is expected to generate $62 million a year to be divided between Everglades and Southern Florida projects. [Chicago Tribune, December 29, 1995 from Steve Ragsdale]

Gives a new meaning to "safe sex"

An Akron, OH naturalist barricaded a local parkway to protect migrating spotted salamanders, spring peepers and wood frogs. He said, "It would be a real shame to have so many killed in the road," and outlined other threats to salamander survival in the area. Six volunteers joined the naturalist "oohing" and "aahing" at the salamanders crossing the road. [Akron, OH Plain Dealer, February 28, 1996 from Jim Zimmerman]

Home, home on the dunes

The Coachella Valley National Wildlife Refuge supports a population of endangered fringe-toed lizards. Biologists have found that the lizards need moving dunes for habitat, so they are rehabilitating farm lands purchased to increase the size of the preserve. Unfortunately, no lizards have been found in the newly created artificial dunes, although conservationists point out that the first batch of dunes was only completed about 2.5 years ago and may not have built up whatever it is that the lizards need for survival. [U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Endangered Species Bulletin, January/February 1996 from J.N. Stuart]

Ssshow down in the show-me state

Ever notice how legislators tend to take stuff personally? The most recent example of this trend occurred when a Missouri representative killed a reported "copperhead" snake he found on his front porch with a garden hoe. He discovered that he had violated the state wildlife code and could have been fined $500 if successfully prosecuted. So he introduced legislation making it legal to kill any snake by any means on private property. Reptile specialists, conservationists, and the general public protested mightily, pointing out the law could lead to organized snake hunts such as those in Texas and Oklahoma. No one testified in favor of the proposed law in a hearing, and so it died in committee. [Springfield, MO News-Leader, February 15, 1996 from Mr. Laverne A. Copeland]

Smuggling down under

Reuters news agency reports that a 28-year-old German biology student was accused of trying to smuggle Australian lizards and snakes at Perth's domestic airport. A spokesman for Australian Customs said the man was arrested carrying "a total of 38 live geckos, including pregnant females, and four snakes, including a Pilbara death adder, a Stimson's python, and two Pygmy pythons. The student told Customs officials that the reptiles had been collected for research purposes. [February 3, 1996 from Allen Salzberg] More charges may be filed against an Australian who was previously sentenced for smuggling lizards worth $20,000 into New Zealand. The 19-year-old unemployed stable hand pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six months in jail (although the sentence was suspended) and fined $4,000. The lizards were found in pillowcases in a box with a false bottom. Of the 44 lizards placed in the box, 18 had died by the time Customs found them. [Daily Telegraph Mirror, May 5, 1995 from Moko, newsletter of the New Zealand Herp Society, Summer 1995/1996 (northern winter, not slow mail)]


Kermit the Frog, was the grand marshal of the 107th Tournament of Roses parade. The first non-human to lead the parade was perched on the back seat of a 1948 luxury car and surrounded by banks of green flowers. Space below was provided for the man behind the frog to preserve the illusion originally created by the late Jim Henson. [Chicago Tribune, January 1, 1996 from steve Ragsdale]

"Amphibia" a new eau de toilette "pour homme, femme, et frog" was reviewed as an unsatisfactory product by Mary Roach in TV Guide: "I wore Amph°b a on my third date... he said he found me riveting which I heard as ribbitting, as in `ribbit, ribbit,' and I got all defensive... he assured me I didn't smell like a swamp... I stuck my tongue out at him, to which he responded that it was the wrong time of year for flies, and besides, the food would be arriving shortly." She concluded that neither the man, nor the perfume would be part of her future life. [February 10-16, 1996 from Tom Taylor] What's next? Aroma-therapy snake-oil?

Spearheaded by CHS member Jim Harding, Michigan's Department of Natural Resources has put together a statewide network of frog call monitoring volunteers. The plan is to gather baseline data from which apparent decline or increase can be calculated. [The Plain Dealer, February 6, 1996 from Jim Zimmerman] Researchers have discovered that right-handedness prevails in two common species of toad. Experiments constituted putting bits of paper on the toads' heads and counting which hand was most used to scrape off the paper. Then a series of cane toads were turned upside down. Most used their right hand to right themselves. [U.S. News and World Report, February 12, 1996 from Tom Taylor] Art imitates life in advertisements for Bad Frog Beer. The "Bad Frog" has its middle right hand digit elevated in a gesture interpreted as obscene by some humans, although others consider it merely a "brew-ha-ha." [Chicago Tribune, January 1, 1996 from Steve Ragsdale]

They monitor the monitors...

"During a recent visit to Ghana in West Africa I engaged the assistance of a number of reptile catchers normally employed by animal exporters. None of the animal catchers are from Ghana, most are economic refugees from Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta). Thanks to their expertise we marked many hundreds of monitor lizards over a short time. The monitor lizards live in fields which are also home to a large number of cobra and vipers. None of the trappers have boots. They wear a couple of pairs of ragged socks and sandals cut from worn-out tyres..." He asked readers in Great Britain with old boots to let him know since he was going back to Ghana in March, 1996. He continues, "You will have the satisfaction of knowing that your redundant footwear is being put to good use and I can feel better about paying grown men paperboy wages to risk life and limb in the pursuit of monitor lizards. Daniel Bennett"

Good to the last drop

At 85-years young, Bill Haast has returned to Florida where he is building a new serpentarium at Puenta Gorda. Haast had a famous serpentarium in Florida for nearly 40 years, but closed it after a child died from injuries sustained after it fell into the crocodile pit. The new facility is for venom milking and no tourist shows are planned. Haast has been bitten 162 times, most recently in December, 1995 but considers himself immune to venom. Since 1948, Haast has injected himself with snake venom and his blood contains sufficient venom antibodies that it has been used as an antivenin in other snake bite cases. [Plain Dealer, February 13, 1996 from Jim Zimmerman]

Thanks to everyone who contributed material

for this column and to Mark T. Witwer, Steve Ragsdale, J.H Schoenfelder, Bill Burnett, Ernie Liner, Brian Bankowski, Dee Fick, J.N. Stuart, Alan Willard, E.A. Zorn, Allen Salzberg, Garrett Kazmierski, Marty Marcus, Jim Zimmerman, Ray Boldt, Dreux Watermoelen, Debra Patla, Sue Black, and David Blatchford for duplicates, photos, cards and letters. Become a contributor by sending whole sheets of newspaper or clippings with date/publication slug firmly attached with tape. Please put your name on each page. Mail contributions, but positively no redundant footwear me. Praise, comments, and all complaints to our editor, please - - .

June 1996

Ploughshares vanish

Allen Salzberg wrote: "72 juveniles and 2 adult females were stolen from the Amphijoroa Forest Park in Madagascar last week...Details are sketchy of who and what, but it is known they are headed for the pet trade. The nearest phone is miles away and news will be trickling in. For those who don't how serious this is... There are less than 400 [Yniphora] known in the world... wild populations are threatened by habitat destruction... [the] project was an attempt to raise these turtles in captivity, scientifically, for eventual release once the habitat problems have been solved. Now all that work is down the tubes and the future of the species is very, very gloomy. Please be advised that if anyone tries to sell you one, no many how many seemingly legal papers he or she has... and [you] would like to help, send the information to the [two major sponsors of the project] John Behler, Bronx Zoo, 718-212-5157 or Lee Durrell at the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust. Your name will be held in strict confidence." Another source of information on this theft is through the WWF Global Network, or by contacting John Newby, Africa/Madagascar Programme, WWF International, Switzerland. Later reports indicated that half the hatchlings from the only breeding group in captivity were taken from a locked compound surrounded by a chain-link fence. The Malagasy head of the breeding station, Mr. Mamy Razandrimamilafiniarivo, is taking classes in Endangered Species conservation in Jersey, England said "I am devastated, that half the work of ten years could be wiped out so suddenly."

Poisonous turtles of the Caribbean?

"The Zanzibar Revolutionary Government is conducting investigations to establish what kind of poison killed [24] persons who ate turtle meat on the island... The government chief chemist told the press... his office had already received the shell of the turtle, samples of the blood of the dead people, and utensils used in the cooking of the animal. The turtle was fished out last week at Vitongojini in Chake Chake District, Kusini Pemba region, and its meat was cut into pieces for sale. About 201 people are said to have eaten the meat... Minister for Agriculture, Brigadier General Adam Mwakanjuki, said poisonous turtles originated from Caribbean islands and that they had been injected with the poison to prevent fishermen from eating them. He said this was because of the turtle trade boom on the islands that greatly threatened their survival..." [The Guardian, March 22, 1996 from Fiona Clark] Scott Eckert from Hubbs Sea-World Research Institute wrote that "Marydele Donnely (Program Officer for the IUCN/SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group) , Dr. Karen Eckert (Executive Director of the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network: WIDECAST) , and Dr. Anne Meylan (Florida Marine Research Inst.), have already sent a large quantity of information to the Government of Zanzibar. Karen and Marydele were contacted directly by the[m]... last week and through them... [put] in contact with the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control... the allegation of Caribbean turtles being `toxified' to harm persons eating the turtles is absolutely without merit, and that it is virtually impossible for Caribbean turtles to even get to the coast of Zanzibar."

Frozen herps wanted

"The leather industry has long had a love affair with the hides of certain snakes and lizards; currently the trade stands in the millions of dollars in the U.S. alone. While CITES rules and regulations appear to regulate this trade, enforcement is difficult... Identification of a snake species from ...the toe of a... shoe or comprising the whole of a watch strap is no easy chore. Without certification of the identification of species imported, the CITES rules provide little protection. The National Fish and Wildlife Forensic Laboratory is the only identification laboratory in the country working toward providing species level identification of wildlife used in producing commercial products. Right now, we are in need of Asian species of snakes and several species of Varanid lizards. If you are associated with an institution, or know of a breeder, hobbyist, or researcher who has material of this type, please help me find him/her. I am in a position to offer: 1) Tax deduction verification for market value of donated materials. 2) Loan of ice chests, coolers, etc. for transport. 3) Free packing material and the loan of "Blue" ice packs. 4) Prepaid overnight mailing labels (FedEx prepaid if necessary) for getting the material to me. return for whole FROZEN (no alcohol, no formalin) specimens of taxa currently (and projected) in the leather trade. Virtually any medium to large sized snake from Asia counts (medium being Elaphe obsoleta or Pituophis melanoleuca size), as well as many of our larger rattlesnakes (Crotalus atrox, C. adamanteus, C. horridus, etc). I also need all Varanus except V. salvator and V. exanthematicus (unless you have some with accurate collection data). Collection data not required. If you can help, please consider it. I will have these specimens tanned and will retain the skulls and skeletons here in our comparative osteology collection." Contact - -.

Turtle-Safe* shrimp campaign launched

At a news conference on April 25 in Houston, TX, the ASPCA, The Fund For Animals, The Humane Society of the United States Join Earth Island Institute in Turtle-Safe* Shrimp Eco-labeling Campaign joined pilots of LightHawk in announcing their support of a coalition of 30 environmental groups to end the slaughter of endangered sea turtles by the shrimp fishing industry in U.S. waters. The groups feel that the US government has not gone far enough in enforcing turtle excluder device (TED) use and propose a consumer-powered campaign may eventually be more effective. Shrimpers who sign onto the program will have their catch certified as "Turtle-Safe*" and will be able to use the logo on their boats and product, according to Todd Steiner, Director of the Sea Turtle Restoration Project of Earth Island Institute. "Don't eat shrimp unless it's Turtle-Safe*," added Carole Allen of Help Endangered Animals - Ridley Turtles (HEART), a Houston, Texas-based organization which has spearheaded the coalition-building effort. LightHawk, the "Wings of Conservation," is supporting the campaign by providing "eyes in the skies." They will be flying sea turtle conservationists over Gulf Coast beaches, searching for stranded sea turtles and monitoring the activities of the shrimp fleet. Federal data shows a strong correlation between sea turtle strandings and shrimping effort. Contact Todd Steiner for more information. [* = marca registrada r in circle character]

Nifty way to keep in touch

On April 25, Colleen Coogan posted a "how-to" guide to get a copy of the 1996 amendments to the TED regulations, proposed rule from the Government Printing Office website at: "[First] select the database to search from the list given: Federal Register, Volume 61, [then] enter the document ID number in the field labeled `Search Terms': 011696D, [and] press the button labeled `Submit.' This should find the proper regulation, dated 24 April, 1996. To view the entire regulation, select `Text.'" I tried this and it worked. In brief, the rules propose requiring "the use of top-opening hard turtle excluder devices (TEDs) in certain areas, and strengthening other existing sea turtle conservation measures during the 1996 shrimping season," according to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). "These proposed changes would provide permanent management measures and would likely alleviate the need for emergency restrictions such as those that have occurred in recent years... Comments on this proposed rule must be submitted on or before June 10, 1996 to the Chief, Endangered Species Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910." Late comments are also acceptable, but may not be included in the agency reply to comment.

What has the right-of-way?

"The state of Ohio is proposing a new highway, I-73... to connect Toledo to Columbus, Ohio. In so doing, it will pass through several areas noted for biological diversity. It will pass just south of the Delaware Wildlife Area in Delaware, Ohio. While the proposed highway will not, to the best of my knowledge, directly contact the wildlife area, there is some concern that run-off from the highway could easily enter the wetlands and ephemeral ponds in the Wildlife Area and the surrounding area. These ponds are used annually for breeding [by] salamanders, frogs and toads. In addition, the Wildlife Area is known for its breeding bird population, including waterfowl and wetlands species that rely upon the water to survive. The Olentangy River also runs through the proposed highway area. The Olentangy is one of the more scenic rivers in Ohio and hosts many species of fish, invertebrate, and some amphibians and reptiles. Occasionally, mudpuppies can be found in the Olentangy and less common salamanders can be found in its tributaries. This is due primarily to the water quality and the geology of the area... Environmental impact studies have not yet been done, but should be strongly considered. Meetings on the issue... have been held. So far the votes have been in favor of the new highway, despite local opposition... if there is a strong enough public out-cry, additional votes and opportunity for public comment [may] occur. The U.S. Representative from the Delaware, Ohio area is John Kasich. Central and District offices of ODOT should also be contacted as it is ODOT that will consider opposition to the project and rank it, along with other statewide projects. The Central ODOT office: Jerry Wray, ODOT, 25 S. Front Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215. The District ODOT office: Jack Marchbanks, ODOT District 6, 400 East William Street, Delaware, Ohio 43015." Gregory Watkins-Colwell, April 29, 1996.

Hiss "cheese"

"The Garter Snakes: Evolution and Ecology" by Douglas A. Rossman, Neil B. Ford, and Richard A. Seigel, "is the first comprehensive review of the genus Thamnophis in nearly ninety years. The book includes color plates of all species (many never previously figured in color); extensive discussion of ecology, behavior, and captive care; and a modern key to all species

as well as species-by-species summaries of the systematics and natural history of the thirty different garter snakes now recognized. Of particular interest are the descriptions of lesser-known species in Mexico... This up-to-date, appealing book, written by the world's leading authorities, will be extremely useful not only to herpetologists but also to conservationists, ecologists, pet owners, and other readers generally interested in natural history... Douglas A. Rossman is Curator of Reptiles in the Museum of Natural Science and Adjunct Professor of Zoology at Louisiana State University. Neil B. Ford is Professor of Biology at the University of Texas at Tyler. Richard A. Seigel is Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at Southeastern Louisiana University." For more information, contact: Sara Hitch, University of Oklahoma Press, 1005 Asp Avenue, Norman, OK 73019-0445.


The long-awaited publication of the Wisconsin Herpetological Atlas Project [WHAP], "Geographic Distributions of the Amphibians and Reptiles of Wisconsin" by Gary S. Casper was recently announced via e-mail: "... softcover ... new distribution maps for all species of amphibians and reptiles in Wisconsin... updates published ranges with over 450 new distribution records collected by... a scientific program of the Milwaukee Public Museum, Inc. All proceeds from the sale of this book go towards funding the Herp Atlas Project, which continues to collect data on the biogeography of Wisconsin amphibians and reptiles. Future publications including a new hardcover field guide, are planned. Museum Shop, Milwaukee Public Museum, 800 W Wells St, Milwaukee, WI 53233 414-278-2795.


"Is Xenopus laevis a protected species, despite the fact that it was introduced?" Answer: "It is not protected per se, but its possession and importation in California are illegal without a permit.

Permits are normally only granted to institutions. The simple reason is that Fish and Game doesn't want them spread around any more than they have already been. About 20 years ago X. laevis was found, apparently reproducing, in a creek in northern California. This was several years after it had been established in Southern California, and all the conjecture that up north would be too cold for these frogs proved groundless. The greatest concern was that the creek is part of the vast Sacramento-San Joaquin River drainage, home to very substantial anadromous fish and native anuran populations, potentially vulnerable to clawed frog predation. The effort to eliminate the frog from the creek was very involved, very expensive, and ultimately successful only because waterflow could be controlled via dams, the creek was small, and the frogs had only invaded a limited area. It could easily happen again, and extirpation might not be so successful next time, and that is why possession of these frogs is illegal. Sean Barry

Turtle book for kids

"Turtles" by Anita Baskin Salzberg and Allen Salzberg (of the NY Turtle & Tortoise Society) is aimed at the grade 3 to 7 readership, but is described as "perfect for any turtle book collection for all ages." The authors are selling them for $20.00, autographed on request.

Feral iguanas in US

? Fri, 3 May 1996: "I live in Palm Beach County, Florida. There are [feral iguana] populations in Lake Worth, Ft. Lauderdale and especially Miami. One... has been around since the 1950's. I have caught babies through large adults, including gravid females."

Spanish Sea Turtle nicknames

From Costa Rica: Olive Ridley - Tortuga Lora; Black - Tortuga Negra; Hawksbill - Tortuga Carey; and Leatherback - Tortuga Baula. Whitney L. Chamberlin, Programs Director, Fundacion TUVA, Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica

From Mexico: Olive ridley - la golfina; Kemp's ridley - la lora; Hawksbill - carey; Green - verde or blanca; Black - negra or prieta; Loggerhead - caguama, perica, or javalina; leatherback - siete filos, caguama altura, or laud; and flatback - kikila. Jeffrey Seminoff, SRNR-Wildlife Ecology University of Arizona - Tucson.

From Colombia: Loggerhead -Tortuga Gogo; Leatherback -Tortuga Canal, Siete Cueros; Hawksbill - Tortuga Carey; Green - Tortuga Verde; and Kemp's ridley (very rare) - Tortuga Lora. Nestor Raul Anzola, Biological Sciences Department, University of Southern Mississippi.


"Is Xenopus protected, even though it is introduced? Answer: "I assume you mean in the U.S.? Possession of Xenopus laevis is prohibited in some areas because it is such a rugged species. It used to be used for pregnancy testing in the 1940's and it got out... They are tough competition for the local frogs for a few reasons: they have a sense of smell (apparently most frogs don't); they will eat anything, even if it is not moving; they can be very aggressive when necessary. Despite all that, you can get them in `grow frogs from tadpoles' kits... [although] you can't have Xenopus shipped to certain states. I don't remember the whole list, but [it includes] California (where they have established a presence) and Hawaii (which is sensitive about foreign organisms). Mark S."

Turtle rookery "in the way"

"The Sri Lankan government is currently presiding over a decision to allow he construction of an oil refinery on 1,200 hectares of land bordering the Bundala Wildlife Sanctuary on the south coast of Sri Lanka (south coast measures approx. 250 km)... one of the most ecologically important wetlands in the country... [which was] declared protected under the "Ramsar International Convention for the Protection of Wetlands". The sanctuary provides wintering grounds for thousands of migratory birds... 149 bird species have been recorded to date. The 48 species of mammal fauna recorded in the sanctuary include the Leopard and the Asian Elephant. The 16 km of coastline forming the southern border of the sanctuary provides rookeries for the Green, Olive Ridley, Leatherback, Loggerhead and Hawksbill turtles. Breeding population numbers for the turtle species are unknown but described as significant... [Several] government departments and NGO's have submitted objections to the refinery project to the government's Technical Evaluation Committee... These organizations are protesting about various issues from destructive environmental impacts due to oil spills, terrorist attacks and construction oversights, to insufficient positive socio-economic impacts and inadequate national economic benefits (apparently, the Sri Lankan treasury will only receive 2.25 percent of revenue)... Although the project will provide 800 jobs to members of the local (and generally impoverished) fishing communities, the protesting organizations are worried that the local environment will be significantly damaged by oil contamination if the refinery goes ahead. However, despite these protests there is a general feeling that the refinery project will be given the go ahead by the Sri Lankan government because the project proponents have a lot of political clout. I have been asked to gather documents and materials from around the world that illustrate the potential negative environmental impacts of oil spills. These materials will be used in workshops held in local communities on the South coast which aim to educate local communities about potential hazards of oils spills. These sort of materials are in desperately short supply in Sri Lanka and most of the communities on the south coast have absolutely no idea about oils spills as they have never encountered anything of the sort. The TCP is particularly interested in obtaining information, pictures, videos, etc. about oil spills that have directly affected turtle rookeries and feeding grounds. I would be most grateful if anybody could send such items to the Turtle Conservation Project (TCP), 14/ A, De Saram Rd., Mount Lavinia, Sri Lanka, Fax: 94 1 732371. If anybody knows of any fax numbers, E-mail, postal contact addresses of organisations that have this sort of information please send me their details to the E-mail address given above... thanks very much to all those who wrote to the SL government regarding turtle conservation in Sri Lanka. Today, the TCP was granted permission to carry out "in situ" nest protection and rookery research on the south coast by the government's Dept. of Wildlife Conservation (DWLC). We will begin the programme in July... Writing letters to governments in support of causes really does work... and in this case the TCP's work towards the conservation of turtles in Sri Lanka would not have been possible without such letters... Yours, Peter Richardson"

They were "in the way"

From the United Kingdom "Dear Ellin: Latest on the newt story. Looks like the Lord Hanson versus the newts conflict has been resolved with the not surprising result of Mega International Developer 1, newts 0. According to the latest issue (#15) of the British Herpetological Society Newsletter, half of the newts' habitat at a Site of Special Scientific Interest (i.e. please leave well alone) is going to be destroyed in creating a new town called Hampton. This requires a massive translocation of 30,000 Great Crested Newts (Britain's rarest and protected urodele) and reluctantly the Conservation Committee of the BHS have agreed to join a liaison group set up by English Nature (a Governmental body) and the developers Hanson Land. Three thousand newts have already been translocated, lets hope they've forgotten their way back home." Dave Blatchford, May 10, 1996.

Drugging reptiles

Someone tried to administer liquid medications to a "medium-sized Russian tortoise" which wouldn't say "AH." Brian Lindsay replied: "You'll need a friend to help you. What we do at the clinic is have one person grab the two front legs and pull them out of the shell and hold them. The other person should have the medication in a syringe. The person with the syringe should tap the tortoise on the beak until it gets really mad and bites the syringe. After it bites the syringe slowly dribble in the medication and wait for the tortoise to let go of the syringe. It works for us."

Drugs and reptiles

"In the US, drugs worth up to $26 million a year have been found in animal imports. But Samuel LaBudde of the Endangered Species Project said, `Only five per cent of shipments are inspected. The real value of this contraband may be approaching $500 million every year.' ...Interpol has uncovered at least one case of snakes stuffed with narcotics at Stockholm airport. And Jean-Patrick Le Duc of the Switzerland-based Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species has confirmed that his organization is investigating the links between drug smugglers and the trade in animals. The relationship between organized criminals such as the Chinese Triads, the Japanese yakuza, Russian gangsters and the Mafia, as well as the Cali and Medellin cocaine cartels in Colombia, and the $5 billion-a-year illegal trade in wildlife is well established..." [Electronic Telegraph, April 29, 1996 from James N. Stuart.]


"Is Xenopus protected, even though it is introduced?" Answer: "... The intent of the ban (apparently) is to prevent further introductions; because of that, I suspect F and W wouldn't enforce it if they found somebody who was demonstrably catching and executing Xenopi, or something like that. On a related note, the bullfrog is protected as a game species in Oregon, though it's an introduced monstrosity that wreaks havoc with any number of sensitive native species. You can take all the red-legged frogs you want, if the bullfrogs have spared any, but you need a fishing license to take bullfrogs." Nathan Tenny, Qualcomm, Inc., San Diego, CA

Abnormal, eerie quiet

Scientific research in the wilderness in and around Yosemite National Park documents "a large-scale collapse of an entire community of frog species... all seven native species of frogs and toads in the Yosemite region have declined since early in the century. Three of the species have disappeared from the still largely pristine study area... Researchers say the new study, published in the current issue of the journal Conservation Biology, provides some of the best evidence that the declines are a long-term problem... The researchers, Charles Drost, who was a zoologist with the National Park Service at the time of this research and is now with the National Biological Service, and Dr. Gary Fellers, an ecologist with the National Biological Service, took advantage of a survey done in 1915 by some of the country's leading zoologists... [Drost and Fellers] consistently turned up far fewer frogs and toads than did their predecessors. Three species, the red-legged frog, the foothill yellow-legged frog and the great basin spadefoot, were not found at any of the original or new sites searched..." Only non-native bullfrogs were doing better in 1992 than in the earlier study. Many factors were studied and, while fish "cannot be assigned all the blame... [they have] played a role. Before people began stocking trout heavily in the lakes and streams in the Yosemite area in the 1920s, no fish were present at elevations above 4,000 feet. Researchers on the 1915 survey noted that in the few places where fish had been introduced, frogs were essentially absent. The introduced trout eat eggs, tadpoles and adult frogs... other causes of the declines are unclear. The culprits might include chemical pollution, disease and increasing ultraviolet light. [New York Times, April, 30, 1996 from Gary Fellers]

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this column,

particularly my e-mail correspondents who posted 309 messages during my recent three week vacation. Next month, back to the clippings. My "mail-pile" was 19 inches high and I'm about half through it. I should know better than to leave town! Watch for a resumption of normal, columnar behavior in the July issue.

Reader's Favorite Websites

Mick & Karen Fagre - The Uromastyx home page:

Mike - 1) The Minnesota New Country School Frog Project deals with the problem of deformed frogs in local ponds: 2) Deformed frog pictures:

Ross Alford - email addresses of most Australian herpetologists, are available on the JCU Australian Herpetology www site maintained by Geordie Torr: Marc Girondot database of tagged turtles (Leatherbacks mainly) in French Guiana. Choose "Kawana project" link:

Daniel Shapiro - zoonoses (diseases of animals transmitted to humans). This includes some infections that can be potentially transmitted from reptiles and amphibians to humans: - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has launched two new World Wide Web servers. This effort supports our goal of sharing our data and information...
  1. Region 6, Mountain-Prairie Region:
  2. Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge:
  3. [Main]USFWS Home Page:
  4. for all of the USFWS servers:

Gary Casper - The first Great Lakes Declining Amphibians Conference was held on March 30... and was a smashing success. Over 150 people attended, from 5 states and Ontario... Abstracts of all papers presented are now available on our Web site at: [which]... also contains links to many other amphibian resources.

Neil Ford - University of Texas - Tyler Biology Department's homepage:

Kevin Reagan - FAQ ["Frequently Answered Question"] how to find people's e-mail addresses:

Kevin Ostanek - Pitvipers of the Americas:

Joshua Modover - NMFS Protected Resources - main page links to all the information available on the site:

James Webster - Lizards! Lizards! Lizards! site:

July 1996

Ugly trend developing?

Bureau of Land Management workers discovered that 134 hatchling desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii) had been stolen from the Clark County (Nevada) Desert Tortoise Conservation Center. "It's like someone broke into our hose and stole our children," said a biologist working for the center. Workers speculate that the hatchlings were taken for the illegal international trade in rare reptiles. The theft is a violation of both the Federal Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act, which prohibits transportation of plants and animals removed illegally from the wild and transported across state lines. Violations carry up to $100,000 and a year in jail per count, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). In addition, the hatchlings were the data set for an ongoing nutrition study on the species. USFWS is offering a reward for information leading to conviction(s). [Las Vegas Review-Journal, April 23, 1996 from Bob Pierson]

The Caymanian Compass carried the AP - Johannesburg, South Africa story which read: "Half the babies of a rare species of tortoise in Madagascar, born at an isolated captive breeding site on the island, have been stolen... Ampijoroa, 450 kilometers (280 miles) northwest of Madagascar's capital, Antananarivo, is the only captive breeding site of the plough share tortoise in the world. In ten years, 162 babies have been born there..." [May 16, 1996 from Larry Reed]


Two Louisiana men were arrested and cited on "numerous violations" in connection with the theft and sale of two white alligators. They were charged with "possessing alligators in closed season, illegal possession of alligators, illegal possession of white alligators and illegal possession of stolen things... and selling alligators without a license," according to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The alligators were allegedly stolen from an alligator farm in a different parish. [April 12, 1996 from Theron Magers]

An "Accidental" Tourist?

An officer from the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission showed up at an Indiana tourist's hotel room after the tourist called the FGFWFC to find out how to take home two alligators he'd just caught on a road. The man told FGFWFC that he already had two legal alligators which he'd bought from a pet shop in Hammond, IN. He said, "I'm a little bit embarrassed by the whole situation. Here I was, basically turning myself in." [Orlando Sentinel, January 26, 1996]

But, the plot thickens... Contributor Bill Burnett found the next part of the story in the same paper on February 3: "The caper of the alligators `found' by an Indiana tourist last week turned into a felony case Friday when commission officers arrested a maintenance worker at the Gatorland zoo and charged him with selling the gators to the tourist for $150... the tourist... denied buying the gators [from his home in Indiana]."

Shrimp vs turtles continues

According to The Chicago Tribune the U.S. government has moved to ban importation of shrimp from countries that endanger sea turtles during the shrimp harvest. Most affected will be Thailand, India, China, Bangladesh and Honduras. "Shrimp may be imported only from countries whose boats use devices to prevent turtles from being caught, those with cold-water shrimping grounds that have no turtles or those where nets are retrieved manually," continued the report which mentioned that the U.S. imported $1.2 billion of shrimp "last year." [May 4, 1996 from Ray Boldt and Claus Sutor]

Sixteen months of litigation in the dispute over sea turtle deaths off Texas and Louisiana shores ended in March after a federal judge threw out a lawsuit in Galveston in February. The U.S. Department of Commerce had been accused by four environmental groups of failing to protect sea turtles. [Houma, LA Courier March 25, 1996 from Ernie Liner and HEART newsletter from Carole Allen]

Frog deities

The Indian Express reports "Berhampur: Villagers of Khajuria in Ganjam district worshipped a frog... to please the rain God Indra, as the dry spell continued to delay cultivation... farmers... firmly believed that there would be adequate rain if the rain god was pleased with this unique method of worship. A big live frog tied with a bamboo stick was carried by villagers who roamed in and around the village chanting couplets in honour of the wife of Lord Indra." [March 16, 1996 from Harry Andrews]

In the southwestern U.S., similar rituals were being practiced by natives of Albuquerque, N.M. "Over at the Rio Grande Nature Center, they get a little punchy when the weather turns really dry... `We have bullfrogs out here,' jokes ranger Heidi Soergel. `We make people pray to the deity by kissing the frogs.'" [May 27, 1996 Alburquerque Journal from J.N. Stuart] It must have worked; it was raining the day the article was written.

In South Florida, the calls of mating frogs are keeping residents awake: "A series of torrential rain storms has triggered breeding season... wildlife officials said they have been swamped with calls from homeowners who can't sleep... wildlife experts said the noisy nights are here to stay until the end of the rainy season, in October." [Memphis, TN Commercial Appeal June 14, 1996 from Bill Burnett]

"On a dark and none too warm evening, the alder swamp rings with the triumphant chorus of a whole nation of spring peepers. The living, exultant noise sounds like a frenzy of tiny sleighbells, and through it one hears the musical trilling of the common toad, and the occasional jug-o-rum of a bullfrog. Heard nearby, the din from the swamp is almost deafening. It is a Dionysian ecstasy of night and spring, a shouting and a rejoicing out of puddles and streams, a festival of belief in sheer animal existence." [from Northern Farm by Henry Beston, c. 1950 Down East Books from Valerie DuPrez]

In a century

Mark Twain wrote about red-legged frogs which then numbered in the hundreds of thousands in the classic story, "The celebrated jumping frog of Calaveras County." Every year they have a jumping frog contest. This year, the winner only had three legs. And it wasn't a red-legged frog which have declined too far and were just put on the Endangered Species Act - the first species listed after a year-long moratorium on listings. Red-legged frogs were exploited as a food source when California was first settled. Their initial decline prompted introduction of non- native bullfrogs to continue the frog harvest. [May 21, 1996 The Commercial Appeal from Bill Burnett and The New York Times from Karen Furnweger]

In a third of a century

The co-owner of a Louisiana turtle export company reacted to the box turtle export ban: "The box turtles have been a renewable resource in the state of Louisiana since the reptile and amphibian industry first appeared which was probably 30 or so years ago. As a business person, because of my personal, hands-on dealing with the reptiles and amphibians collected from the state of Louisiana... our main interest is to see to it that the reptile and amphibian industry in Louisiana is always a renewable resource, similar to the shrimp, the fish, the crab and the oysters." [Baton Rouge, LA Sunday Advocate, March 24, 1996 form Ernie Liner]

Harold A. Dundee, chairman of the Louisiana Reptile and Amphibian Task Force and co- author of "The Amphibians and Reptiles of Louisiana" is said to be glad the exports are being prohibited. His panel had recommended some box turtles could be taken, but not 10,000 as the turtle export industry had wanted. [Houma, LA The Courier, March 24, 1996]

Wisconsin limits proposed

Turtle trappers in Wisconsin approached that state's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) asking for regulation on to limit how many soft-shelled turtles may be taken by whom and when. The problem seems to be that "a booming European market for soft-shelled turtles accounts for much of the increase in trapping... many trappers in Wisconsin sell to a buyer in Iowa who sells both live turtles and dressed turtle meat to European markets... some out-of-state trappers capitalizing on Wisconsin's lack of regulation, are taking up to 300 pounds a day of soft-shelled turtles from the Mississippi and other rivers." At present, only ornate box turtles are protected by state laws. A season to protect breeding and nesting as well as a size limit and a bag limit have been put forward for comment. [Wisconsin State Journal, May 22, 1996 from Dreaux Watermoelen]

Turtle rustling in Florida

A Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission official speculated that soft-shelled turtle collectors are shipping their catch to Japan where "they're a delicacy, I think they're considered an aphrodisiac," according to a report in the Ft. Pierce Tribune. Trotlines and nets have been left in lakes overnight, and lakefront owners report seeing animals in pickup trucks and car trunks. About the only law that could be used to stop the trappers is trespassing, said the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office since the turtles are not protected. No statistics are kept on numbers of animals shipped, unless they're on the endangered species list of the state from which they were sent. [May 3, 1996 from Allen Salzberg]

Salamander round-up

The drought in Texas has resulted in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service beginning to collect fountain darters and San Marcos salamanders from San Marcos and Comal Springs. Captives will be housed in tanks at the San Marcos National Fish Hatchery and Technology Center in the hopes of saving the species if the continuing drought results in a total loss of natural habitat when the springs dry up. The two springs are the largest outlets of the Edwards Aquifer which provides drinking water to 1.5 million people and farm irrigation water in six counties. The spring levels are going down faster than expected, according to water district officials. [Austin- American Statesman May 24, 1996 from William B. Montgomery]

Art imitates life

For just $29.99 and 3.95 shipping and handling, you too can get a 12" by 10" green giant plastic frog that "loudly `ribbets' whenever anyone crosses his path" because it has a motion sensor. I got the article on this from super-clipper Bob Pierson from the Las Vegas Sun [January 12, 1996], but I've actually seen one of these at the Geneva, IL Ace Hardware and it's just as big, tacky, and silly as you could imagine from the story. Just the thing for the tasteful suburban home built on former amphibian habitat, now polluted with septic fields and lawn chemicals - a plastic frog!

Cruelty definitions changing

A woman in Denver, CO was charged with an animal cruelty charge punishable with a $999 fine and up to a year in jail for not taking her pet box turtle to the vet for a $150 operation the woman said she couldn't afford. The charge was thrown out on a technicality. [Leesburg, FL Daily Commercial, May 8, 1996 from Bill Burnett]

A case in West Chester, PA reports on a phenomenon known as "collecting" where what starts with one or two animals can lead to dozens or even hundreds of animals being kept by a single individual or a family. An animal control officer said that the owners may have more pets than they can reasonably care for. Then, some do not receive adequate food, water, sanitation, or veterinary care and her agency has to intervene. [The Sun, March 31, 1996 from Mark Witwer]

Ten feet tall and bulletproof, too

A Texas man bitten by a coral snake allegedly killed the snake and used its skin to make the tourniquet widely cited for saving his life from its deadly "poison." The 40-year-old was walking by the side of U.S. 281 when he reached into a clump of grass and was bitten. A passer- by drove the man to Edinburg Hospital where officials said he should make a full recovery. [May 11, 1996 Albuquerque Journal from J.N. Stuart; Alexandria Daily Towntalk, May 12, 1996 from Theron Magers]

Are they breeding?

Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission officers responded to a call and found a dead 9- foot 9-inch reticulated python in a creek near Leesburg, FL. The Orlando Sentinel reports: "A minivan full of tourists risked high-speed traffic to snap pictures of the snake. One truck driver yelled out his window, asking the wildlife officers how large the snake was. [The officer] said people with exotic pets should never release them into the wild." The animals was reported to be from 8 to 10 years old and weighed 65 pounds. Some exotic species have colonized South Florida, but it is not known if pythons are reproducing in the wild. [January 31, 1996 from Bill Burnett]

International conference in Sri Lanka

August 1 through 5th the "International Conference on the Biology and Conservation of the South Asian Amphibians and Reptiles" will be held at the University of Peradeniya in Kandy, Sri Lanka. If any CHS member makes it there, I'd be happy to hear how it was. Speakers include Carl Gans, I. Das, Rom Whitaker, M.S. Khan, P.C.H. Pritchard, Anselm de Silva and other prominent herpetologists.

Chicago Turtle Club

The active turtle interest group within the CHS has just published their periodical Amblings with a request for members interested in participating in their group or subscribing to the journal to contact Lisa Koester, 6121 N. Fairfield Avenue, Chicago, IL 60659. Incidentally, Lisa and Richard are expecting their first (human) hatchling in September. Lisa writes: "Newsletter submissions, as always, will be cheerfully accepted

but appreciated more than ever then!!"

Thanks to everyone who contributed this month

and to Steve Ragsdale, Mark Witwer, Ernie Liner, David Blatchford, J.N. Stuart, Dee Fick, Denise and Frank Andreotti, E.A. Zorn, Michael Wood, and Ardis Allen who sent stuff I enjoyed but didn't summarize. You can contribute, too. Send clippings with date/publication slug firmly attached by tape and your name to me.

August 1996

Reproductive news

A male "striped turtle" is needed for a breeding program which hopes to breed this rare species of Yangtze river turtle. Zhao Kentang, herpetologist at the Suzhou Railway Teachers' College in Jiangsu province, hopes a foreign turtle owner can be found who is willing to donate a male striped turtle to the breeding program. One female is being held at the Teachers' College. Two other females are in captivity in China. [Indian Express, April, 1996 from Harry Andrews] An American crocodile nested in a flower garden on Sanibel Island, FL. This is the first known nesting on Sanibel, although crocodiles are popping up all over the state. "This is an endangered species success story in progress," said a wildlife ecologist at the University of Florida. Only 20 breeding females were counted in 1975; last year 42 were recorded. Researchers estimate the total population is about 450 individuals. [National Wildlife, April/May, 1996 from Garrett Kazmierski] Other new crocodile habitat includes Fort Lauderdale's neon-lit beachfront strip, Homestead, and Cape Sable - all along canals. One group of three crocs routinely visit a Key Largo restaurant where patrons throw food to them off the dock. [Times-Picayune, New Orleans, LA, January 19, 1996 from Ernie Liner] "Toadally trilling" is how you might describe spring evenings at Cedar Bog in Ohio as Bufo americanus loudly advertises for mates. The site draws about 6,000 visitors a year including the annual toad tour. The naturalist said, "I talked toads the entire weekend." [Bucyrus, OH Telegraph-Forum, April 25, 1996 from Bill Burnett]

Two tales of tuatara

Four Cuvier Island tuataras hatched at Auckland Zoo. Their parents are among the last six known individuals of this species, all of which have been in captivity since 1990. Curiously, the remaining tuatara had been believed to be too old to breed. Tuatara were being outcompeted by introduced predatory kiore, no eggs or juveniles had been reported for several years. Kiore have now been eliminated on Cuvier; juvenile tuatara will be released on the island when they've grown up a bit. Another 17 eggs are being incubated at Victoria University - hopefully they'll hatch, too. [New Zealand Herpetological Society Moko, Autumn (our spring) 1996 issue from Chris Hibbard and Teejay Thornton]

A mystery tuatara was found by two medical students at Tutukaka, north of the town of Whangarei, New Zealand. Wildlife officers hoped beyond hope that it might have been a mainland tuatara, but genetic tests proved that it was from an island population. They speculate that it may have escaped from reptile smugglers. Only about 50,000 tuatara of all subspecies and species are known to reside on offshore islands of the New Zealand chain. [New Zealand Press Association from - http://www.rsnz.govt.nzm - from Wes von Papinešu and Kimberley Heaphy]

"Aliens exterminate amphibians"

Froglog reports: "Fish introductions and aquacultural practices are the most serious threat to upper Midwestern amphibian populations..." from an abstract by Michael Lannoo, DAPTF US Coordinator. [newsletter of the UICN/SSC Declining Amphibian Populations Task Force, May 1996, number 17 - Headline pun from John Baker.]

"Froggers, taking thousands of pounds of the succulent amphibians from a federal preserve, are plundering the wetlands and endangering birds of prey, environmentalists say... The plunder comes as Congress is considering opening all 508 preserves and wildlife refuges to hunting, fishing and trapping. The House of Representatives last week passed a bill that would allow such recreational uses with little regard to their impact on natural resources... 67 boats last month... took 4,489 pounds of Everglades pig frogs... [a woman] with her husband and two other couples sold a total of 226 pounds of cleaned frog legs... $5 to $7 per pound... The camp reeks of dead frogs and flies swarm the gut buckets the froggers say they dump at night into a nearby gator hole... [They kill by] slapping the back of a whimpering frog's skull with a blunt edge of a knife and then cutting [it] up... `sometimes, it'll cry like a baby,' she said." [Leesburg, FL Daily Commercial April 30, 1996 from Bill Burnett]

"The National Park Service has banned frog hunting in the Big Cypress National Preserve until bag limits can be set to stop commercial harvesters from hauling off the plump-legged critters by the ton... the ban is a stop gap measure until restrictions can be established." [Daily Commercial, May 2, 1996 from Bill Burnett] Over a hundred thousand people were expected at "Toad Suck Daze" in Conway, AR this year, but organizers only had 55 toads procured until the last minute. "Organizers also ended up entering amphibians in more than one race after spraying them down with water. Explanations for the toad shortage varied from cooler weather ... to a nearly full moon, which may have scared some toads into hiding..." [Memphis, TN Commercial Appeal, May 6, 1996 from Bill Burnett]

To list or not to list (before the election) seems to be the question for Bruce Babbitt's Interior Department. A group called the Save Our Springs Legal Defense Fund (SOS) has filed a federal court case to have the Barton Springs salamander listed as an endangered species. "A federal judge ruled in November [1995] that Babbitt violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to decide whether to add the salamander to the list... after an aborted appeal, Justice Department lawyers representing Babbitt are asking [the judge]... for several more months to make a decision..." A lawyer for SOS alleged election year politics are what is really holding up the decision. [Austin, TX American-Statesman, June 25, 1996 from W.B. Montgomery]

Professional courtesy?

A 2-foot snake fell out of the ceiling of a courthouse in Amite, LA. A New Orleans lawyer picked it up and released it outside. Courthouse workers were upset, but the security guard pointed out "We can't keep snakes out. The metal detectors won't pick up snakes unless they are armed." [Baton Rouge, LA Advocate, May 2, 1996 from Ernie Liner] My husband points out that he's never seen a snake with arms yet.

More weird snake stories

An Erwinville, LA snakehunter was fatally shot. He hit a bump or a tree branch. His 12- gauge pump-action shotgun fell off the shotgun rack on his three-wheeler and discharged into his chest. Police have ruled out foul play. [New Orleans, LA Times-Picayune April 25, 1996 from Ernie Liner]

The Alexandria Daily Towntalk reports that a Rapides, LA Sheriff's Deputy responded to a call from frantic homeowners who had found a snake in their stove. "The people had already tried turning the gas oven on and roasting it. so we tried poking it with a wire hanger and some concrete wire, but nothing worked until I borrowed a golf club and held down its head," said the deputy who later reportedly cut the black snake's head off with a pocketknife outside the house. [May 14, 1996 from Theron E. Magers]

A python was implicated in a Spottsylvania County, PA liquor store robbery. One of the suspects had allegedly stashed the proceeds within the animal. Dave Barry comments: "But for the record, most financial advisers do not recommend that you put your money into snakes... The police took it into custody (presumably in a handcuff) and held it without bail for a week..." Nothing was retrieved from the fecal material which was recognizable as anything more than "snake poop... so the police were forced to release the snake, although NOT on its own recognizance..." [New Orleans Times-Picayune, April 21, 1996 from Ernie Liner]

A Melbourne, FL woman watering the yard thought she heard the neighbor's kitty hissing under a bush. But it wasn't a cat - it was a hooded cobra. The snake had escaped from its keeper, who kept another 40 venomous snakes in sweater boxes. Police shot the snake with a shotgun, then called for someone to identify it. The snake expert they called identified it as a rare albino hooded cobra that he had lent to another fancier for breeding. The fancier was cited for housing wildlife in unsafe conditions, allowing the snake to escape, violating wildlife sanitary requirements and unlawful housing of venomous reptiles. The man had a permit to keep venomous snakes. [Orlando Sentinel, May 21, 1996] When the man appeared in front of a judge, he was ordered to find someone else to keep the animals which were relocated to a new home in Ohio. [same paper, June 5 and June 12, all from Bill Burnett]

An attorney for a man who wants to open a snake farm "can't understand why anyone would be opposed to his client's plan to open a snake breeding and venom collection facility in ... [a rural Florida community]... After all snakes `don't bark and they don't smell.'" [Orlando, FL Sentinel April 26, 1996 from Bill Burnett]

Vinyl snakes are being sold as a way to keep rabbits and other small animals out of gardens. "While he may look lightning quick, he is actually slower than a slug. He can't move. Consequently, a key to keeping my crop losses low is to relocate the snake every few days. That way, we - the snake and I will keep our enemies guessing. Is he live or [just] ... cheap vinyl?..." The columnist and his 11-year-old bought the snake. The son blew it up in the car and wrapped it around his head. Rob Kasper continues: "If a passenger in your car has a snake around his head, other drivers become real courteous." They put it in their allotment garden where it seems to be doing a good job, but "he might work better at scaring off car thieves... I might put him in the vestibule of my house... Nobody bothers a snake handler. [Baltimore, MD Sun June 15, 1996 from Mark Witwer]

Two Tallahassee biologists wrote a letter to the editor about Boiga irregularis, the Brown Tree Snake which was accidentally introduced to the island of Guam: "It has already reached at least 10 Pacific islands in less than 15 years... The snake's high densities - 10,000 to 15,000 per square mile - near villages, seaports, and airports plus Guam's large volume of international traffic, create ample opportunities for snakes to be passive stowaways... [it] thrives in hot, humid climates. So Florida should be concerned about the Pentagon project to find ways of curtailing [its] movement... Can you imagine what would happen to Florida's tourism industry when a visitor happens to get up in the middle of the night and finds an aggressive brown tree snake in the hotel bathroom?" [Miami, FL Herald, April 11, 1996 from Andy Streit]

"The Invasion of the Brown Tree Snakes" trumpets the nationally syndicated grade school newspaper Weekly Reader sent in by alert reader Robert H. Streit who wrote: [This] "may be old news to most CHS members, but you know we're on the verge of a new mania when [Brown Tree Snakes] make the front page of our trusty W.R.... Rabbits, rats and goats have been wreaking ecological havoc all over the world, but it seems to have taken a combination of snake- phobia and tax-phobia to get the public and the Congress interested."

Thanks for the dandelions...

"It's a fact that every [British] lake has a terrapin [water turtle] - or even worse, a snapping turtle - which started out life in a pet shop," Nigel Pope, researcher for the "Really Wild Show" on the BBC. The problem of pet shop turtles released into ponds in the U.K. apparently got worse and worse as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle craze resulted in thousands of people buying small turtles and then releasing them "into nature" when they got too big for the little bowl/plastic palm tree housing. Some foreign turtles have reportedly eaten rare British wildlife - including Great Crested Newts. [British Herpetological Society Newsletter, Number 12, January 1996 from David Blatchford. Also thanks to John Levell for suggesting the headline.]

New publication

Brian Gill and Tony Whitaker have just had their new book "New Zealand Frogs and Reptiles" published by Bateman Field Guides of New Zealand. The book features color pictures of every species of herpetofauna on the archipelago, a section on six recently extinct species, and keys for identification of living fauna. To order, write a check for $20.00 US payable to the New Zealand Herpetological Society, Inc. and mail to P.O. Box 1, Wellsford, New Zealand. Postage is included. If you are a member of the rapidly growing NZHS, the cost is only $15.00. US.

Thanks to our contributors!

And to Steve Ragsdale, Ernie Liner, and Ray Boldt for materials I enjoyed reading but didn't use this month. You can join the 0.026 % of the CHS membership who contributes to this column by clipping articles of interest and sending them with their date/publication slug and your name firmly attached to me. The best clippings are not too origami-like. The best clippers save time by using return address labels to put their names prominently on the front and use tape to secure the date slug to the top of the clipping. Other excellent clippers just send the whole page of newspaper (it doesn't weigh much) and avoid the whole cut and paste problem altogether. Selected contributors (and every new clipper) receive letters and postcards as some small recompense for their participation in this reader-supported column. Letters only to my e-mail.

September 1996

Dear readers:

This month's column will be a roundup from my e-mail box from June through August 20. The notes and letters are in the order received and this author is not responsible for the opinions or ideas expressed by the writers thereof. Regular column format of reader- contributed clippings will return next month. Please continue to send clippings with date/publication slug and your name to me.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [USFWS] Law Enforcement web page USFWS North American Waterfowl and Wetlands Office You can access these sites directly at the url's listed above, or you can access them through the USFWS Home Page From: Alan R. Fisher, National Data Administrator.

We have a created a page off our homepage for the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, which includes information on sea turtle fibropapilloma and a number of other reptile diseases which are focuses of research here. Also included is information on various training programs within wildlife and zoological medicine - When you enter our homepage you will notice "Zoological and Wildlife Medicine" near the top of the page. Click this and you will then be linked to a series of titles within this category. Scroll down to sea turtle fibropapilloma and open it. Within this document are hyperlinked images, including gross, light microscopic, and electron microscopic images. After you view it, feel free to send any comments/suggestions to me. It will be continually updated. From: Elliott Jacobson, Professor - Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, P.O. Box 100126 - College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida - Gainesville, FL 32610.

Through the courtesy of the California Turtle and Tortoise Club I received a story from the Las Vegas Review detailing the extraordinary theft of 134 hatchling, endangered species Desert Tortoises back in March. Details have been posted to our Anti-Smuggling Website. Any news stories or information on the theft or illegal trade of rare and endangered/listed herp species can be sent to the undersigned for distribution on this website. Trade in non-listed species which may foreshadow a population decline or population extinction will be the subject of an associated website termed "Herp-Watch" coming soon. From: Steve Grenard>

For information on sea turtle programs of the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, you can visit our new Home Page on the WWW located at: Sea Turtle Survival League, Caribbean Conservation Corporation, 4424 NW 13th Street, Ste A-1, Gainesville, FL 32609. From: "Caribbean Conservation Corp."

There is a new WWW page about the "Proyecto Coqui" - "Coqum Proyect" - , a research and conservation effort being done at Puerto Rico with the local species of the genus "Eleutherodactylus," locally called "coqum." This project is managed by Dr. Rafael Joglar and Prof. Patricia Burrowes. At this moment there is only a spanish version of the page, but it is still under construction, so take a look at it, the URL is:

In our continuing effort to making the world hot for smugglers of contraband and often stolen reptiles and amphibians we now have a number of photos of the stolen Malagasy yniphora tortoises as links from our Anti-Smuggling website. You can link to them from: - Courtesy of Bill Love from Blue Chameleon (who runs some great wildlife/ecology photo/study tours to places such as Madagascar by the way... we also have some pix of the compound from which the animals were stolen including the notorious chain-link fence discussed awhile ago. This fence is quite high from what we can see of it and will be posting the famous fence pictures and other shots of the locale sometime next week after we can them back from the scanner service. From: Steve Grenard.

"... On 14 May 1996 at ca. 2:00 p.m. a Kemp's ridley (Lepidochelys kempi) came ashore and nested on the beach of the town of Ponce Inlet, Volusia Co., FL. The turtle bore NO evidence of tags (living or metal) and there were NO tag scars. Due to eminent danger of tidal inundation the eggs were relocated to a safer site. Clutch size was 108, SLCL=63.8 cm, SLCW=61.5 cm. The relocation site is being monitored daily. On 1 June 1996 at ca. 8:00 a.m. the same turtle came ashore and nested in the town of New Smyrna Beach, about 7 km south of the first site. The exact location of the clutch was determined and the eggs left in situ. The site is being monitored regularly. Numerous photographs were taken of this turtle and when compared to photos of the previous animal, there is no doubt that the same turtle was responsible for both nests... a few cosmetic flaws (neck-skin pigmentation and small pits in the carapace) ... allow positive identification as the same turtle in both instances. The two groups which monitor sea turtle nesting activity in the vicinity of the nests (Volusia Turtle Patrol and Volusia Sea Turtle Society) do not have tagging programs and therefore the turtle was not tagged during either nesting emergence. I am currently in the process of obtaining tags and permission from the State to tag this turtle should we again encounter her. This is not the first documented instance of L. kempi nesting in Florida. Two previous nesting events have been observed, both on the west coast. The first was in 1989 at Madeira Beach (see Meylan et al. 1990. Herp Review:21) and the second occurred in 1994 on Clearwater Beach (see Velador Spring/Summer 1994). From: Steve Johnson.

Frog calls on the web: - From: Jaap van Wingerde.

Dr. Uwe Fritz of the Staatliches Museum fuer Tierkunde (Dresden) wrote " . .some days ago an article appeared in the 'Saechsische Zeitung' that on Madagascar about 50 or 60 Geochelone yniphora hatchlings were stolen, now one can buy them in "Tschechien", as I have heard from Austrian turtle fanciers." From: Allen Salzberg.

The Spanish Herpetological Association and the Portuguese Herpetological Society organize together the Spanish-Portuguese Congress. The IV Spanish-Portuguese Congress and VIII Spanish Congress of Herpetology will take place in Portugal, at the city of Oporto from Thursday, 5th to Monday, 8th of December, 1996. The Congress 2nd Announcement, containing detailed information about the Congress, will be released in the end of this month and sent to all members of both Herpetological Associations as well as to those who have expressed their interest on the event. For more information, suggestions or remarks about the Congress please contact the Secretary's Office to the address shown below or visit the Congress Home Page at - - Or write: IV Congresso Luso-Espanhol de Herpetologia, Departamento de Zoologia-Antropologia, Faculdade Ciencias, Universidade do Porto, 4050 PORTO, Portugal.

Can anyone give me, or tell me where to get, info. on the toxicity of water borne arsenic!! and copper. Jersey has experienced the near extinction of its indigenous frog and recent tests have shown abnormal levels of both these pollutants at the frogs prior stronghold. Any info would be most welcome. Thanks. Richard C. Gibson, Herpetology Department Head, Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust, Les Augres Manor, Trinity, Jersey, JE3 5BP, Channel Islands.

"... As you may know, Anolis equestris, originally a Cuban species, is now well-established in Florida. I understand that it was deliberately introduced there, somewhere in the 50s. Recently, I have encountered a number (several dozens, all males except 2), of animals from this population, and I noted that (1) almost all of the animals had a pair of paramedian, ill-defined (compared to supralbial bar an axillary stripe) light blotches halfway between the forelimb insertion and the dorsal crest; (2) about 50 percent of the animals had a deformed tail, in the sense that a sinusoidal crooks appeared along the length of it (somewhat like the ritual Indonesian dagger, the *keris*) ... Since herpetology is not my professional field (I am a neurobiologist with a profound interest in herpetology, however), I am not in an easy position to do an elaborate search on old literature ... therefore: does anyone of you know anything about the introduction of A. equestris in Florida? What was the rationale for doing so? Was it a single introduction, or did it happen repeatedly? How many animals were set free? What is the current geographical range of the animal (in the USA)? Does anyone know about the ins and outs of the described phenomena? Or, for that matter, can anyone point me in the right direction (papers, experts' e-mail boxes)? Furthermore, I have learnt that, a subspecies not covered by the article mentioned above, has been described (A.e. potior). Since the paper in which this occurred is in Spanish (by Garrido, again) I have -as yet- not asked our library to track it for me. Does anyone of you know what it looks like, where it occurs, and so on? Thanks in advance, Zainal L. Haberham, Dept. of Lab. Anim. Sci., Veterinary Faculty, Utrecht University, The Netherlands.

A short message to let you know that [August 19] is the "French frog day" here in Quebec. It is called the "St-Jean Baptiste Day" ... celebrates the existence of a francophone oasis in the huge anglophone North American desert. Although this community is still alive and dynamic, it shares something with the frog populations: it needs protection. Bonne fete Quebec! From: Gendron Andree.

"I'm the section chief of the serology section at the USFWS Forensics Lab in Ashland, OR. My job is to identify wildlife parts and products to species of origin in order to assist law enforcement officers in the prosecution of poaching violations. Due to increased interest in identification of frog legs to species which have been confiscated by our agents and wildlife inspectors, our staff is seaching for a source(s) of frog tissues to use as reference tissues in testing of a method being developed to identify the legs to species. If you can provide advice or referral, then that would be appreciated." Peter Dratch.

As one the principal researcher in the investigation of this turtle I will give a run down on the turtle, as well as make a few minor corrections [to the post above]. Elseya lavarackorum was described from fossil material of Pleistocene age from a deposit at Riversliegh in north west Queensland by Arthur White and Mike Archer. In their original description they identified the fossil as an Emydura... In 1994, I was visiting the Queensland museum and was asked by the collection manager to identify a skeleton from Lawn Hill Gorge in the gulf country, I was able to identify it as an Elseya but it was clearly something new as a Queensland form of Elseya had never been found from the west of the Great Dividing Range before. To further delineate the species we (Arthur Georges and myself) determined that it was necessary to try to obtain a live sample for electrophoresis. We obtained the necessary permits and sent Arthur White up to collect some as he was going to Riversliegh to collect fossils. Whilst diving in the Gregory River he was able to capture a sub-adult male. Its this animal whose photo appears in the Sydney Morning Herald article of June 19th, taken by John Cann. Tissue from this animal was sent to South Australia where Mark Adams (South Australian Museum) used electrophoresis to determine that it was indeed a new species. I was then intending to describe this species but felt it important to compare to the fossil "Emydura" lavarackorum first, since it's such a recent fossil and from the same locality. I obtained the fossil material off the Queensland Museum and compared it to my skeletal collection of Chelid turtles (over 300 specimens covering around 35 species from Australia and South America) and determined that the fossil was actually an Elseya and that the fossil and the living form share two unique characters, and that there are no detectable differences between them, except size. Therefore, I am recognizing Elseya lavarackorum as a living fossil. I am about to submit the manuscript which describes all this formally in the Memoires of the Queensland Museum, the paper is authored by Scott Thomson, Arthur White and Arthur Georges, it should be out in about six months all going well. Scott Thomson, Applied Ecology Research Group, P.O. Box 1, University of Canberra | Belconnen Act 2616, Australia. From: Scott Thomson

The German magazine GEO, an equivalent of National Geographic in Central Europe, would like to ask amphibian experts what they consider to be the 10 most important measures that should be taken against worldwide amphibian decline. Suggestions can cover conservation, environmental policy and research. Anything is allowed, from rather general to very specific, from realistic to utopian ideas. Answers may be used (with citation) for a box with the working title "Action for Amphibians" in a forthcoming report. Thank you for your cooperation. Mail to: University of Reading, School of Plant Sciences, Whiteknights, PO Box 221, Reading RG6 2AS, UK. From: Christian Schwagerl freelance journalist

Registration Forms and Call for Papers are just being sent out for the 1st Annual Meeting of the Working Group on Amphibian and Reptile Conservation in Canada and the 6th Annual Meeting of the IUCN/SSC Task Force on Declining Amphibian Populations in Canada (DAPCAN). These meetings will be held at the University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, from October 5-7, 1996... If you are not already on our mailing list and would like to receive the Call for Papers and Registration Forms please contact Stan Orchard, National Co-ordinator, 1745 Bank Street, Victoria, British Columbia, CANADA, V8R 4V7. Messages can also be left at the Royal British Columbia Museum at 604-387-3649. From: Stan Orchard

On Sunday June 30th I performed a necropsy on a loggerhead turtle. It had tan colored worms on the carapace, barnacles starting to appear on the plastron and flippers and the liver was nearly black. The intestine was filled with a black fluid and some had leaked out into the cavity which we found when we removed the plastron. A report was sent to our State Coordinator. They have found several in the same general condition and forwarded sample specimens to the NC State University Veterinary School for evaluation. Meantime I think it wise that anybody handling sea turtles use some extra precautions until it is ascertained whether or not the disease can be carried over to humans. Has anyone found a similar condition? From: Crawford A. Hart, Jr.

July 8, 1996 "MUNICH, Germany (Reuter) - Customs officials in Munich said Monday they had detained a man suspected of smuggling 3,000 rare and protected tortoises from Serbia for an estimated $327,000 over the past five years. The 32-year-old suspect, an out of work German auto paint sprayer, was detained last week in the city of Augsburg with 328 tortoises in his luggage, 'stacked up like plates,' a customs spokesman said. The man had admitted selling around 3,000 of the tortoises since 1991 after having either caught them or bought them cheaply in Serbia. If convicted, he could face up to five years in jail." From: Allen Salzberg

This was posted for Greg Elonen by Sam Droege. Please respond directly to him address at the end... "The USEPA, Mid-Continent Ecology Division, Duluth, MN has started to investigate occurence of deformed frogs found in south-central Minnesota. We are planning to perform some sort of field survey on frogs later this year for the purpose of determining rates of incidence of deformities. If we find a suitable site we plan to continue a monitoring program for several seasons. My hope is that our survey may provide some information which may be useful to the NAAMP. I am wondering if you could provide me with more information on the NAAMP, especially larval and juvenile surveys. I would also be interested in any references or comments you may have concerning background levels of limb deformities in amphibians, specifically R. pipiens and B. americanus which are the two species found with deformities. Greg Elonen, USEPA, Mid-Continent Ecology Division, 6201 Congdon Blvd., Duluth, MN 55804-2595

The first of three leatherback nests laid in Georgia beaches this season emerged over the weekend. A total of 21 out of 92 eggs hatched on Sea Island, a renourished beach. The remaining two nests are on Sapelo and St. Simons Islands. The last leatherback nests found in Georgia were on Blackbeard and Cumberland Islands in the early 1980's. From: Brad Winn

I have a fair sized rodent colony in a 12 x 20 building in north Florida that I need to keep air conditioned in the summer in order to get any sort of production from them. I've been using (2) 10,000 btu residential units to do the job. One will actually do the job but I want two of them so one will act as a backup when the other one fails. I've been going through these A/C units about every month or so and it's beginning to get real old. I had an electrician check out a failed unit and he found that the compressor was still working fine, but the coils had been corroded through and had leaked all the freon. Apparently, the ammonia content of the air was combining with the moisture on the condensing coils and eating away the metal. Has anyone else had this problem and come up with a viable solution? I would think I am not the first person to have a large rodent population needed to feed my reptiles and suffered a problem like this. Any help would be greatly appreciated. From: Rich Zuchowsi

"LIVING with RATTLESNAKES" The Tucson Herpetological Society has published a very informative brochure and is making it available to interested organizations/people. The brochure gives a little natural history of the "pit vipers" and touches on how they are born and able to deal with the world from day one. It also mentions "Rattlesnakes and Your Home", common sense precautions that everyone should observe. Here they mention the relationship between rodents and rattlers. After a few paragraphs on "DETERRENTS" the brochure deals with Snake Encounters and then guidelines should you have a rattlesnake bite. The final article mentions Conservation and Protection and follows up with references by experts in the field. One copy will be furnished FREE with a stamped self addressed envelopes. Quantity pricing will be included with FREE BROCHURE. Mail to: Advance, 8987 E. Tanque Verde Rd. # 339 Tucson, AZ 85749. [Mine arrived in a week - EB]

The International Hylid Society is a non-profit organization that serves as a resource and information exchange center to benefit the members and the well being of the treefrog species they keep and study. Members will receive "The Bulletin of the International Hylid Society" on a quarterly basis. "The Bulletin" shall serve as a vehicle to disseminate valuable information and resources to all members. Each quarterly bulletin is filled with informative articles on a variety of topics including, but not limited to: husbandry, insect and food animal culture, captive breeding, tips on maintenance, terrarium design...etc. Bulletins also contain full color photography and classified ads (free to members). We have members in eleven different countries. Members include zoos, museums, professional herpetologists, and hobbyists.

"In the `Turnabout is Fair Play' category: Recently, an illegal gill-netter was observed and apprehended in waters around Petit Bois Island, MS. The island, a part of Gulf Islands National Seashore, is off limits to all commercial fishing activities (the boundary extends 1 mile offshore). Whereas this is not overly unusual in itself, the circumstances are quite amusing. The fisherman would have very likely escaped detection were it not for a sea turtle nest. A park biologist was conducting an aerial search for turtle crawls when one was spotted on the island. Circling back for verification, the biologist observed the gill net and was able to convey the information to a patrol ranger. The violator was finally apprehended near the mainland after a chase involving both the National Park Service and the Coast Guard (a scanner was used in an effort to avoid the pursuers). Turns out he was also fishing out of season for MS waters. Had it not been for the turtle nest, this one would surely have gotten away! Riley Hoggard, Gulf Islands National Seashore."

In an effort to educate the general public and to try to convey the large size that the green iguana will attain, and the large enclosure it requires, the following experiment is proposed: All those that care for the well-being of the green iguana in captivity and wish to assist in this educational effort... simply refer to the common green iguana (Iguana iguana) as: The GIANT GREEN IGUANA. If we all use the term, Giant Green Iguana, it will eventually be the preferred common name and first-time reptile buyers might think twice about the acquisition or might even prepare large accommodations for their new lizard... they might even read about their new pet to see how large it gets and pick up other valuable insights. For those of you that belong to herp clubs or societies, please pass this along and ask your group to adopt it as well. For those that write articles or books, please refer to this species as the Giant Green Iguana in print. And for those that discuss iguanas on line... please continue this experiment every time you mention them! Many thanks for your support and cooperation! Mark Miller, President, Philadelphia Herpetological Society, PO Box 52261, Philadelphia. PA 19115 USA.

Suggestions [for my air conditioning problem] have varied quite a bit: (1) Give rodents vinegar in their water; (2) Find A/C units with stainless steel (or equivalent coils); (3) Buy standard A/C units, have coils removed and coated with something to resist the ammonia corrosion; (4) Redirect the input to the A/Cs to draw in fresh outside air instead of recirculating the inside air; (5) Increase airflow within the building to reduce the ammonia content of the air; or (6) Place an aquarium within the rodent building and use a bubbler to push air through the water. The water should extract the ammonia from the air. Of course, number (5) was the easiest to implement so that is what I am trying. The A/C units are working harder since the fan is drawing in outside air that may be 90 to 95 degrees. But the air smells better and I'm hoping the resultant reduction in ammonia will increase the lifespan of the units. I have also contacted someone that was advertising air cleaners that will extract ammonia from the air. I explained my situation and he said he was confident that he had a unit that would work. Probably requires monthly changes of filters that cost $100 a pop... When things quiet down a bit this Winter, I'll probably seek a contractor that specializes in air filtration and cooling to see if they can come up with a solution. I would require something that they would be willing to guarantee for a minimum of 2 years without a failure. From: Rich Zuchowski

"[A]...Carlsbad woman was accused of violating a New Mexico law that says it is illegal to kill, sell or ship from the state a horned toad. [She] pleaded no contest Wednesday before Eddy County Magistrate Bill Sadler, who deferred sentencing for 15 days on condition she obey all laws. A fine up to $500 and a sentence up to six months in jail can be issued for the offense. Sadler said it was the first time he had seen someone charged with unlawful shipping of a horned toad." Albuquerque [NM] Journal, 2 August 1996. From: James N. Stuart

ProjWITH wrote: " My house is infested with Hemidactylus turcicus. Eggs are being laid in attic and possibly furniture. What can I do to control this problem? I can find no local assistance on the Mississippi Gulf Coast." Reply: My first instinct would be to congratulate you, I wish something like that happened to me. They're excellent little pest controllers, and do no harm by themselves. I take it your house has a large number of hiding places (narrow spaces, large wall cracks etc.). Try plugging these, this would make your house a less attractive habitat for them. In addition, supply a number of removable artificial hiding places, and collect the animals that have accepted them during day time, and put them outside. This is probably not a good idea, but I've seen Tokay geckos hunt them (that is, the Indonesian variety, H. frenatus) in Indonesia. However, this would render you with a huge, loudly barking Gecko in your house, probably eating only incidentally a hemidactylus. From: Zainal L. Haberham

August 9, 1996 "VIENNA, Austria (Reuter) - Austrian efforts to rescue 20,000 Yugoslav frogs from death in Italian gourmet restaurants failed Friday after zoologists determined the animals would damage the local ecosystem if allowed to stay. `They are just beautiful, green animals. I'm so sad we can't help them,' Harald Schwammer, a zoologist at Vienna's Schoenbrunn zoo, told Reuters. `It's awful they'll now be eaten.' The frogs arrived from Yugoslavia Thursday and are due to continue their voyage to the northern Italian city of Milan on Friday evening, a spokesman for Austrian Airlines said. `We considered setting them free, but after the experts' assessment it is impossible,' he said. Austrian Airlines said it had a policy of not transporting animals, but airport personnel had only realised the shipment contained live frogs after it arrived for transit in Vienna. `There are 4,400 lbs. of frogs. When they arrived they were shut in containers, stuck in bags with airholes,' the Austrian Airlines spokesman said. `We've now put them into boxes that are more appropriate for living creatures.' Schwammer said the frogs, which are three to six inches long, could not be set free because their genetic material would endanger the local frog population. He said they could also probably not adapt to Austrian weather... `The argument...that they cannot live together with our animals should be discounted considering the fate the frogs face in Italian cooking pots,' the [Green] party's environment spokeswoman ... said. [The biologist approved the airline's care of the frogs...]`The little fellows are in good condition. They have received excellent care at Vienna airport, where firefighters spray them with water to keep them cool.'

My first thought was to consider these animals for the pet/hobbist trade, but after remembering the two-year long slaughter of the Russian Tortoises at the hands of the Dutch Government, maybe a sure, quick death is a better option.I guess either way, the frogs 0, humans 1.

August 13, 1996 " By Jim Gilchrist HONG KONG, Aug 12 (Reuter)- A seven-week-old ban on carrying live or perishable cargo in Cathay Pacific's new fleet of Boeing 777 aircraft remains in force... similar to the one imposed by Dubai-based Emirates airline after one of its newly-delivered 777s was forced to make an emergency landing in Cyprus, apparently because a consignment of mangoes triggered an over-sensitive fire alarm system in the cargo hold. The Cathay 777 emergency happened at Hong Kong's Kai Tak airport on June 23 when 306 passengers and 15 crew had to be evacuated on chutes. The plane had just landed when there was a fire warning in the cargo hold. On board were three pallets and 15 containers of cargo including fresh fruit, flowers and live frogs - a popular Chinese delicacy. The pilots activated the cargo hold fire extinguishers but the warning remained and the evacuation order was given. More than a dozen passengers were reported injured in the hasty exit. One of the theories being investigated for the false alarm is heat given off by the tightly-packed frogs caused a build up of condensation which triggered the fire sensor. Jewell said the incident is still being investigated... Industry sources say that all affected airlines want the problem fixed as soon as possible because valuable cargo revenue is being lost. One revenue-earning cargo in the Chinese winter season is live snakes for soup... engineers are working with airline customers to fix the problem without compromising safety, while at the same time allowing perishable cargo to be carried." "...the Mediterranean gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus), [is] very common in Florida and apparently in Alabama. I have found two where I work in Prattville, Al in the past several weeks. A zoologist I know said they are probably arriving here by people who are bringing potted plants into Alabama from Florida. They are insectivorius and nocturnal. Probably very good to have around. I'm not sure how they arrived in Florida but the state is a haven for all kinds of introduced species.

Turtles and Tortoises of India by Indraneil Das [has just been published]. 1995 Bombay. Color illustrated softcover. 32 species pictured in the color plates. 178 pages. Index, keys, species accounts, glossary, extensive references, text figures, etc. Good summary and update of the biology and conservation of the chelonians of the Indian subcontinent by one of India's finest herpetologists. Published for the World Wide Fund for Nature - India. US$29.95 plus $3 shipping (worldwide) Satronics, POB 52261, Phila PA 19115. From: Mark Miller

Evidently, Hemidactylus turcicus is very common all along the gulf coast as well as the SW US. Five or six years ago I helped some students from Texas A and M collect these geckos from the shipyards on Galveston Bay where they were very abundant. They have also established populations away from the coast at many locations across the south. They seem to be particularly abundant on college campuses. I guess this is because that is where they are most likely to have been originally released and because campuses provide excellent habitat. I am aware of two graduate theses on H. t. turcicus that used the Stephen F. Austin campus in Nacogdoches, TX as their study site. This is about 150 miles from the coast (I think). A couple of questions come to mind: I'm wondering how far north this species can survive. I believe there is a population of in Oklahoma City and maybe Tulsa (??). Is anyone aware of a more northern population? How is this species affecting native species? Mike Duran, Mississippi Natural Heritage Program, CSTS-DPW-E; Bldg 6678; Camp Shelby, MS 39407-5500.

Orlando Sentinel August 17, 1996. "A curious U.S. Customs Service inspector thought something was wrong Tuesday when he reached inside a man's suitcase and felt something move. An X-ray and further investigation showed he was right: inside were 61 endangered Madagascan tree snakes and four rare spider tortoises worth $100,000 or more. Customs agents arrested Simon David Harris, 25, of Blairgowrie, South Africa, who led investigators to another tourist, Wolfgang Kloe of Rauenberg, Germany. Kloe, 33, was arrested Thursday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at a Bushnell restaurant. Investigators say he admitted in a tape-recorded phone call with Harris that he intended to sell the reptiles to an unidentified party. At a bail hearing Friday before U.S. Magistrate James Glazebrook in Orlando, Justice Department prosecutor Robert Anderson said the investigation was continuing. "There is an indication here there are others involved," said Anderson, a specialist on wildlife and marine resources... Kloe was visiting Florida with his wife and children... he had planned to attend the National Reptile Breeders Expo, billed as the "largest reptile show in the world," ... at the Radisson Twin Towers Hotel in Orlando. Hotel convention spokeswoman Melissa Humin calls the event 50,000 square feet of "everything that crawls and creeps." Scott Audette, secretary for the Central Florida Herpetological Society, which is sponsoring the show, said it is a convention for scientists, zoologists and breeders to show and sell reptiles raised in the United States. He said legitimate breeders and hobbyists do not condone black-market smuggling. "Our slogan is 'Conservation is through captive propagation,'" Audette said. "We can breed these animals instead of raping nature." Don Boyer, associate reptile curator at the San Diego Zoo, said the turtles and snakes seized in Orlando are protected species that are illegal to export from Madagascar, an island country at the southern tip of Africa. Tree boas, he said, grow up to 4-feet long and are worth $700 to $1,200. He said the tortoises, which are 6 inches long and extremely rare, are priceless and could sell for thousands of dollars. "If you put aside your fears about snakes ... they have roles in the ecosystem," Boyer said. "One of their [boas'] roles ... is control of rodents."

October, 1996

Serious range extensions

The Chicago Tribune reports that workers from Brookfield Zoo and the DuPage County Animal Control Department recently spent three hours capturing a 3-foot-long American alligator which had lodged itself in a culvert in the 8200 block of Lemont Road in Woodridge, IL. Traffic was slowed for hours as police, state and county law enforcement officers, emergency road crews, animal control officers, wildlife rescue workers, media, and dozens of curious citizens crowded around trying to get a glimpse of the animal. The Tribune reports "To dislodge the alligator, workers from the DuPage County Public Service Department drained the area of standing water, to no avail." Next they pumped water into the sewers in an effort to flush the gator out. That didn't work either. Finally the gator gave himself up and just slithered out of the sewer into a waiting net. [July 2, 1996 from Ray Boldt] The moral of this story is "The next time you're up to your gluteus maximus in alligators, don't bother to drain the swamp - it doesn't work."

Nassau, NY police hope that the alligator population at Massapequa Preserve pond is down to zero after an alert citizen captured a 3-foot specimen on a pole with a mouse for bait. The spokesperson for the Nassau League for Animal Protection suggested that the American alligator may have been dumped by someone who got tired of keeping it as a pet and added that it probably would not have survived the upcoming winter season. [Newsday, July 9, 1996 from Joseph Jannsen]

Caveat emptor et venditor

A 43-year-old Hammond, Indiana man pleaded guilty to illegally possessing and selling state listed endangered turtles including Clemmys guttata (spotted turtles) and Emydoidea blandingii (Blanding's turtles). He was sentenced to one-year probation, fined $500 and court costs and ordered to pay $370 to a wildlife replacement fund for the spotted turtles. Charges were dropped for the Blanding's turtles after the man agreed to plead guilty to the other charges. Agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and from both Indiana and Illinois departments of natural resources participated in a sting operation which resulted in the man's arrest after he sold three spotted turtles to an undercover federal agent at the Streamwood, IL swap-meet. [Chesterton, IN Tribune, September 6, 1996 from Chuck Keating and Ellis Jones]

1,106 points of light

Three men were arrested while transporting 1,016 two-month-old star tortoises at the gate of a forest reserve near Chengalpattu, India. The tortoises are protected under schedule 4 of India's wildlife act. The animals were allegedly being taken for export to Singapore and other south Asian nations for consumption as tortoise soup. The shells are also made into "jewel boxes." Smugglers receive about 200 Singapore dollars for each tortoise. [Madras, India Journal, August 15, 1996 from Rom Whitaker]

Smuggler convicted

A 36-year-old Florida man was found guilty of five counts of violating the Endangered Species Act by smuggling 110 red-tailed boa constrictors and four other snakes from Peru into the United States. The value of the smuggled snakes was placed at about $33,000. [Miami Herald, July 31, 1996 from Alan Rigerman] At the other end of the pipeline, Peruvian officials are having a hard time coping with the increase in wildlife traffic. A spokesman for the Lima zoo said, "The worst thing about all this is the suffering of the animals... You should have seen how they arrived... half of them dead, the other half in agony." One government investigator said that "Corruption [is] so prevalent in our country at all levels of public office [that it is] fomenting this problem" Environmental police only have 600 officers to patrol 637,000 square miles. Even so, they catch quite a few people with illegal animals and investigation has revealed an international animal-trafficking network ranging from Peru, Nicaragua, Argentina and Trinidad to the U.S., Germany and Canada. [The San Francisco Sunday Examiner & Chronicle, August 4, 1996 from Grizzly Gibson]

Orlando bust update

A federal grand jury in Florida indicted six men for their roles in trying to smuggle hundreds of rare and endangered reptiles from Madagascar into the U.S. concurrent with the Orlando reptile breeding show in mid-August. Two men were arrested when 61 Madagascan tree snakes and four spider tortoises were found in luggage at Orlando International Airport. Four other men are being sought for their part in the smuggling effort. [New York Times, August 24, 1996 from Kathy Bricker]

Mom and babies doing fine

The Madras Crocodile Bank/Centre for Herpetology reports their second successful breeding of king cobras in captivity. The 20-inch babies are "jet black with brilliant yellow bands and have a characteristic chevron marking on their tiny hoods. They may grow to over 12 feet in length..." Rom Whitaker writes, "Collette Harston Adams of Gladys Porter Zoo, Scott Pfaff of Riverbanks and Andy Odum of Toledo Zoo generously guided us... The 29 babies are doing fine and while most are being forcefed mice and skinks, eight of them have already started feeding on their own." It is hoped that continued breeding efforts can supplant wild caught animals in the zoo trade. Curiously, while Ophiophagus hannah is known to be a snake eater, scientists at the Madras Centre have acclimatized their animals to eating rats. Letter from Rom Whitaker

Rarities most in danger

"In most cases, the extinction of species is due to habitat loss, but in a significant number of cases, illegal trade is pushing species to the brink of extinction, all because of the greed of people who want to display animals in their living rooms," said Guy Shorrock, an investigator for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in the U.K. His remarks were prompted by the discovery of a home "stuffed floor to ceiling" with dead animal skins, skulls, parts and pieces - mostly intended for sale to collectors. Illegal trade in wild animals is nearly impossible to document, but Traffic International, an organization established by the World Wildlife Fund and the World Conservation Union, estimates that illegal trade earns about $5 billion a year. Legal trade in wildlife results in about $15 billion. [Chicago Tribune, May 28, 1996 from Ray Boldt] In a similar vein, Stefan Gorzula reports that 15,779 dendrobatid frogs as well as 200 grams of dead parts and pieces were legally traded from the 1987 to 1993. During this seven year period, wild-caught animals were about 83 percent while 13 percent were captive raised. The balance to 100 percent was dead parts and pieces. Three consignments of 173 frogs were seized with Dutch officials taking 13 live frogs and 150 corpses from a shipment originating in Nicaragua. Gorzula concludes "These data suggest either that illegal trade is negligible or that it is not being detected." [Herpetological Review 27(3):116 in press]

Herpetologist lost all to flaming lizard fire

AFH members Gavin and Jennifer Sutherland arrived home one night to find that what had been their Nevada dream home, shared with reptiles, ferrets, priceless books and treasures of two lifetimes had burned down to a steaming hole in the ground. Gavin, a writer, had been working on a bibliography on a rare species of snake. The whole work which was to have been published by the Chicago Academy of Sciences was lost in the fire as it existed only on computer disk and paper; both copies had been in his library. The fire was started by two teen-age boys who drenched a lizard in gasoline, ignited it and then let it run away into the brush. A total of 3,400- acres and four homes were destroyed. Fire crews from Reno, Sparks, Truckee Meadows, Carson City and Douglas County responded to the blaze. About a dozen people were injured and several were left homeless besides the Sutherlands. The 13- and 14-year old boys allegedly responsible for the fire face felony and misdemeanor charges for the arson which caused at least $2 million in damages. [Nevada Appeal, June 27, 1996 from Gavin Sutherland via Allen Salzberg]

If you build it, they will come

Moko, the journal of the New Zealand Herpetological Society, reports that after ponds were built in fields 40-minutes north of Wellington, they were promptly colonized by Australian Golden Bell Frogs and Green Frogs (Litoria aurea and Litoria raniformus). The ponds cover about 8000 square meters and were built for Grass Carp farming. The pond owners are not really pleased to have the frogs; they claim the tadpoles use up oxygen required for their fish. [Jill Charteris reporting in the "Spring, 1996" meaning northern hemisphere "Autumn" - in any case Volume 1996, Number 3] People interested in joining NZHS can contact Damon Bailey by writing NZHS, P.O. Box 1, Wellsford, NZ.

Death by natural causes

Before Hurricane Bertha, there were about 57 sea turtle nests on Topsail Island. Bertha wiped almost all of them out. After the hurricane, 66 more nests were laid, including two by green sea turtles. Then came Hurricane Fran, and all these nests were lost. Several volunteers for project Topsail Turtle lost their homes. The director and two rehabilitating turtles evacuated from their facility before the storm hit. One of the turtles was released two days after Fran's passage. The director wrote "What a thrill to see him back where he belongs. The other one will be a long term rehab but is doing well. Plans for our facility are on hold for a few months until everyone gets their breath." [letter from Jean Beasley to the CTurtle Internet list, September 14, 1996]

"I recently heard of two bearded dragons in separate states that died after eating one or more lightning bugs. I had personally heard of a similar case a year or two ago. Melissa Kaplan, one of the very knowledgeable mentors on PCF (AOL Pet Care Forum) wrote: "Lightning bugs as prey have been discussed in the desert lizards folder - I believe a collared or swift died after feeding. The consensus there is that they (lightning bugs) are toxic - whether due to natural chemodefensive strategy or bioaccumulation of environmental... toxins is unknown, but since the effect is the same (dead), the important thing is to get the word out." Interestingly, a veterinarian at the University of Illinois poison control center told me she believed they were quite bitter tasting, having eaten one as a child. Has anyone else experienced toxicity in herps when lightning bugs were used as food? Steve Barten, DVM" [received by e-mail]

New publications

The Wisconsin Herpetological Atlas Project [WHAP] has just published "Geographic distributions of the amphibians and reptiles of Wisconsin," by Gary S. Casper. The softcover guide provides new distribution maps for all Wisconsin species of amphibians and reptiles and updates published ranges with over 450 new distribution records collected by the WHAP which is a scientific program of the Milwaukee Public Museum, Inc. All proceeds from the sale of this book go towards funding the Herp Atlas Project, which continues to collect data on the biogeography of Wisconsin amphibians and reptiles. Future publications, including a new hardcover field guide, are planned. Copies can be ordered from the Museum Shop, Milwaukee Public Museum, 800 W Wells St., Milwaukee, WI 53233 414-278-2795 "Reptiles and amphibians in captivity breeding, longevity, and inventory current January 1, 1996" compiled by Frank and Kate Slavens has just been released. "At 276 pages, this edition includes a complete inventory listing of 35,841 specimens in 170 public and private collections" worldwide. Copies are $33 each for softbound and $43 for hardcover; back issues from 1980 to 1994 softbound can be purchased. Contact Frank Slavens, P.O. Box 30744, Seattle, WA 98103 or fax (206) 546-2912. Additional information for web surfers at http//

Prolific author honored

CHS member Joseph T. Collins was proclaimed Kansas Wildlife Author Laureate by the governor and legislature of Kansas state legislature. He is the first person to receive this honor in Kansas. The award recognizes Joe's efforts to educate Kansans about native plants and animals through publication of numerous books and articles on the subject. Joe is also active in the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles and the Kansas Herpetological Society. Joe is co-author with Roger Conant of the Third Edition of the Peterson Field Guide on the Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern North America. He and Suzanne Collins can be seen in the reptile room at every SSAR meeting photographing animals. The Museum of Natural History at Lawrence, KS where he works maintains a photographic voucher collection for those who prefer not to pickle every critter they find. [Herpetological Review 27(3):107]

Stupid human tricks

Guests at a Miami, Florida hotel reported a missing pet following room cleaning, but hotel employees were unable to find "Fido." The guests then informed hotel workers that Fido is a 12- foot python. Later, the snake was found curled up under bed covers in the same room. [Chicago Tribune, April 15, 1996 from Steve Ragsdale] A banded Egyptian cobra named "Tut" slithered down a hole between the lawn and the sidewalk after his owner had let him lay out to sunbathe. Police in Stoneham, Massachusetts distributed flyers on the road where the snake disappeared while "nervous parents watched their children play" reports the Plain Dealer. Residents have been warned to watch where they walk and antivenin is available at the Boston medical center. A course of antivenin treatment can cost up to $10,000 according to a representative of the New England Herpetological Society who added "It only takes one bozo who let his snake sun itself in the yard to make us all look bad." Tut's 20-ish owner is a model and tennis instructor who said, "I like living on the edge" then boasted that he always handles the animal without gloves. [August 13, 1996 from Jim Zimmerman]

Froglog online has new editor

You can read all the issues of Froglog, the Newsletter of the World Conservation Union, Species Survival Commission, Declining Amphibian Populations Task Force on their world wide web site The new editor of Froglog is John Wilkinson, Department of Biology, Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA. And, as always, publication of Froglog is sponsored by the Frog's Leap Winery of Rutherford, CA. Froglog's e-mail address is This month's issue reports on declines in Croatia, Slovenia, Puerto Rico, Yosemite National Park, New Zealand, and the European Alps.

Short takes

The owner of a roadside zoo recently got in trouble with USDA for feeding improperly euthanized puppies to his large snakes. He said, "That's not how [snakes] eat. They eat live animals. People need to realize that some things have to die so others can live. They'll buy the idea that rats can be fed to snakes because they don't care about rats." [July 18, 1996 Orlando Sentinel from Bill Burnett and Baton Rouge, LA Advocate from Ernie Liner]

Among the cargo of the ill fated TWA Flight 800 which is believed to have exploded off the coast of Long Island, NY in August were boxes of live turtles. [Wisconsin State Journal from Maggie Jones]

A species previously unknown to science "15-foot South American python held seven Tangipahoa Parish sheriff's deputies at bay... before they captured it." The Sheriff is reported to have remarked that if the large reptile were provoked it could strangle a human being in seven minutes. [Baton Rouge, LA Advocate August 20, 1996] Contributor Dez Crawford wrote, "Yeah, and if you get `em real mad, they'll wreck yer pickup, too!"

A black snake was found in a Duncannon, Pennsylvania hen house that had ingested three golf balls which it apparently mistook for eggs. The owner of the hen house said she'd put the balls in the nests to encourage the hens to lay and had put the snake in the hen house to eat mice and rats. [Baltimore, MD The Sun, July 4, 1996 from Mark Witwer]

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this month's column

and to Ardis Allen, Karen Furnweger, P.L. Beltz, Breck Bartholomew, Jim Zimmerman, Debi Hatchett, Mark T. Witwer, Rick Dowling, E.A. Zorn, Bob Pierson, Steven M. Coogan, Kathy Bricker, Mark O'Shea, Garrett Kazmierski, and to new contributors Nicole Marrello, Eric O'Neill, Robert Wallen, and especially to super-clippers Steve Ragsdale, Ernie Liner, Ray Boldt, Bill Burnett, and J.N. Stuart. The first person to send me a clipping by using the new first class postage stamp showing the San Francisco garter snake will receive a free copy of Frogs! from the Shedd Aquarium. Not to boast too much, but I wrote the Chicago Region section and provided a photo. My husband has quite a few photos in the book, too. If you visit the Frogs! exhibit, you will also see our photos on the displays. It's a great show and it won't be there forever, so if you haven't gone yet - please make time for it. Contact Shedd Aquarium for more information. You can contribute to this column, too! Simply send clippings with the date/publication slug and your name firmly attached with tape to me. Letters only to my e-mail address. This year, I've been keeping a list of the names and addresses of contributors for a special purpose. On December 26 (my 40th birthday and the approximate anniversary of 10 years of this column), I'm going to pull the name of one contributor out of the proverbial hat and send them a small token of appreciation. Everyone is eligible - clippings, cards and letters received on or before my birthday count equally. Hope to hear from you soon!

November 1996

Stressed to kill?

Rudolph "Rudy" Komarek, a Pennsylvania rattlesnake hunter, was charged with "two separate incidents of capturing and possessing more than the state limit on rattlesnakes. The first charge was a result of a harvest card he had filed May 8, 1994, on which he reported that he had caught 12 timber rattlers out of season. The second incident stemmed from an appearance... on CNN's Network Earth. On June 10, 1995, Komarek took a CNN camera crew with him on the first day of rattlesnake season. The crew documented the capture of two timber rattlesnakes. The daily state limit is one snake... Komarek believes that the charges were filed because of the jealousy of [wildlife] officers. `They're mad because they weren't in my CNN thing.'" Komarek has been arrested seven times in Pennsylvania and has trouble with New York wildlife officials as well. Komarek is quoted: "The reason they don't like me in New York is because certain people think I've taken too many rattlesnakes out of the state. I've taken over 9,000 snakes out of the state over the past 45 years... The arresting officer's comment indicating I have a disregard for the laws protecting T. Rattlesnakes is quite factual. These laws are ridiculous and are designed to placate the wishes of the wealthy "nature watcher" who occasionally may wish to take a guided nature walk, or may wish to read a magazine article concerning someone else's fantastic aesthetic experience.'" The article continues: "According to Komarek all that has been accomplished by revoking his license is that it will save him the $5 for the license, but he will continue to hunt rattlesnakes." [Shippensburg, PA News-Chronicle, August 22, 1996, from Bill Brown]

Disturbing trend

A 13-foot long Burmese python apparently killed its 19-year-old owner outside his apartment in Bronx, NY. Police received a 911 call for a "man bleeding with a snake wrapped around him." Arriving at the building, police found the man face-down, half in and half out of his apartment. Officers heaved the snake into a bag and took it to Bronx Zoo (New York Zoological Park) where it was identified. A reptile expert at the zoo said that pythons don't usually eat people. The man had apparently just bought a live chicken to feed the snake. His brother speculated that since the snake had only had rabbits before, it went wild when it smelled the chicken. The brothers had owned several other snakes, including other pythons, and had never had a problem before, said the surviving 16-year-old brother. [October 10, 1996 Newsday from Joseph Jannsen; Chicago Tribune from K.S. Mierzwa; October 11 Post-Tribune from Chuck Keating and Little Rock Arkansas Democratic-Gazette from Bill Burnett]

A 15-foot python bit its 27-year-old female owner in the stomach while the woman was showing off her pet to friends in Huguenot, NY. Her mother-in-law put a kitchen spatula in the snake's mouth and pried it open. The woman went to the hospital and said "I've had her [the snake] for six years. I got her when she was only 4 inches long." The woman said that she thinks her snake loves her too much to kill her. [Orange County, NY Times-Herald-Record, September 30, 1996 from Norman Frankel]

San Diego, CA paramedics sawed the head off a 9-foot pet python which was coiled around the stomach of one of its owners. The woman woke up to find the Burmese wrapped around her and biting her buttocks. He husband tried to free her, but finally called paramedics. The snake had not been kept in a cage. The woman is 8-months pregnant and her 4- and 5-year old children witnessed the ordeal inside the single-room the family shares in a residential motel. Crisis counselors were called to help the children who were disturbed by the decapitation. [Arkansas Democratic-Gazette August 22, 1996 from Bill Burnett]

Finally, in San Carlos Park, FL a couple were charged with child abuse after their pet python attacked their 2-month old baby. The snake had bitten the soft spot on the child's head and was wrapping itself around the baby when the child's mother and her boyfriend heard the child's cries and went to investigate. They pulled the snake off the baby and threw the snake in a closet and took the baby to the sheriffs office where an ambulance was summoned. The mother was charged with a probation violation and abuse by culpable negligence. The boyfriend was also charged with child abuse. The child was released from hospital to the custody of his grandmother. The snake was taken to Bill Haast's Serpentarium where Haast expressed the opinion that the snake had been trying to eat the baby, but that he was shocked by the attack. "I would never have expected that the snake would go after something as large as a baby, but perhaps it focused on the baby's head," he said. [Bonita Springs, FL Banner, October 9, 1996 from Ardis Allen]

Babies released

Biologists released Kemp's ridley hatchlings from eggs laid in two nests at the Padre Island national seashore in Texas in July. The turtles who laid the eggs may have been offspring from a headstarting program which began with the best of intentions and the support of conservationists and government biologists but which was unfunded in 1992 after some of the scientists involved with the program yanked their support when the shrimp fishing association began touting headstarting as a way to avoid using Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs). In 18 years, the project cost the taxpayers $4 million dollars which various "wise-use" advocates claim was wasted. Time will tell, however, whether more Kemp's ridleys return to Padre Island where thousands of baby turtles were imprinted after hatching and before headstarting to release size. [Science, July 26, 1996 from Bill Burnett]

Declining amphibian writers

There seems to be an ongoing problem for herpetological editors trying to get material. The existing regular writers tend to have steady outlets for their work, and it seems as though less than one percent of the herp community even tries to write. I know our editor goes through this, but I was unaware of the lengths to which other publications will sink in an effort to get new material. Recently, Jeff Beane, Editor of the North Carolina Herpetological Society Newsletter sent me a few sample issues of their publication. I really enjoyed reading them; there's a warped and twisted humor at work here. For example: "NC Herps prefers to print original articles, notes, cartoons, etc.... submitted to the editor in any reasonable format (handwritten, typed, diskette, crayon on construction paper, rudely scrawled in blood on birch bark, etc.)." Almost everything in their publication pertains to their state. If you'd like to receive their newsletter - or submit to their editor - please write North Carolina Herpetological Society, N.C. State Museum of Natural Sciences, P.O. Box 29555, Raleigh, NC 27626-0555.

All your eggs in one book

A guide to identify amphibian species at early development stages with color photos taken in Oregon and Washington States, U.S. and British Columbia, Canada was written by Charlotte Corkran and Chris Thoms of the Northwest Ecological Research Institute. [Oregon Herpetological Society, from John Applegarth]

Frog news

A white tree frog was found in Indiana by a writer for Hoosier Conservation [Indiana Wildlife Federation, September/October 1996]: "In July, while walking along the edge of the wildflower patch, I spotted what I thought was a white insect. On closer inspection I found it was a tiny, white tree frog, no larger than a bumblebee, clinging to the stem of a purple coneflower. Now I need to know if regular tree frogs come in white! Perhaps it was an albino. Or maybe fresh- from-tadpole tree frogs take a while to transform to less obvious greens and browns." [Contributed by Garrett Kazmierski]

A tiny toad town has been built next to the newly opened tunnel for migrating amphibians in Davis, CA. The postmaster recalled that tiny toads swarm every year in their parking lot, and sometimes in the post office itself and described how his father, a retired building contractor, built the town out of scraps from construction projects. "Toad Hollow" has a saloon called "Toad Werk," a cemetery named "Road Kill Hill," a toad-sized hotel, a swimming pool and even an outhouse. Other local residents are joining in, a foot-high green steel frog was installed by a nearby shop owner, and unwanted pet frogs are being released at the town as well. A city councilwoman campaigned with a frog and toad theme, the tunnel followed, and the toad is well on its way to becoming the town mascot. [Sacramento, CA Bee from Laura Anne Welch]

An interactive computer program is available which may replace regular frog dissection in many schools and colleges.

Cane toads are again in the news, although they haven't really done anything much lately that was newsworthy. Several papers rehashed the cane toad hallucinogen/aphrodisiac stories which made the rounds a couple of years ago. What apparently started this round of stories was a dog which nearly died after trying to eat one in Dade County, FL. [September 21 and 22, 1996: San Luis Obispo County Telegram-Tribune from Norman J. Scott, Jr.; West Chester, PA Daily Local News from Mark T. Witwer; Leesburg, FL Daily Commercial from Bill Burnett]

A book titled "How to turn your ex-boyfriend into a toad and other spells for love, wealth, beauty and revenge" states that to do the toad spell, you need a piece of cloth from the ex's shirt, a handful of sandy dirt, a picture of the ex, a darning needle, a piece of thread and a green marker. You put the ingredients on the cloth, sew it up into a sack and use the marker to draw a toad on the sack. Then you leave it outside in the moonlight and throw it in the garbage the next morning. [Chicago Tribune, October 6, 1996 from Ray Boldt] Please let me know if you get this to work!

No acid reign?

The proposed Superior Mine which would have injected 11 billion gallons of sulfuric acid into a "played out" copper mine adjacent to Mineral River has been halted after huge public outcry by a coalition of Native Americans and environmental groups protesting the lack of an Environmental Impact Statement and public hearings. At risk were both the groundwater and surface waters on the Keewenaw Peninsula, parts of Upper Michigan and Lake Superior near Isle Royale. My husband and I visited the Keewenaw in July last year - he promptly disappeared into a swamp to catch frogs - I sat on the shore looking at rocks. I was really pleased to hear that the whole rail corridor would not become acidified and that the old mine workings will still be open for exploration on our next trip. Perhaps the folks in Minnesota who are finding deformed frogs should look for one of these acid mines upgradient from their sites? Associated Press reports that scientists in that state recently held a conference to try to determine the causes of the horrible deformities being found in Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Vermont States, U.S. and Quebec, Canada. Suggested causes include pesticides, parasites, ozone depletion, acid rain or a combination of these or other environmental insults. In Minnesota, deformed frogs have been reported from 54 of the state's 87 counties. [October 10, 1996: Chicago Tribune from K.S. Mierzwa; Post-Tribune from Chuck Keating] The Minnesota New Country School is maintaining a website on deformed frogs at [from David Ian Withers, TN Natural Heritage Biologist]

Are there TEDs on the `net?

Find out at, the new home page of the Caribbean Conservation Corporation. You can also watch satellite-tracking of sea turtles in action and can "adopt" a tagged turtle. Contact them for more information. [from Karen Furnweger, Shedd Aquarium]

The Center for Marine Conservation's new website covers driftnets to purse seine nets and other issues [Marine Conservation News, Autumn 1996 from Kathy Bricker]

What? Where?

In a report in USA Today, a San Francisco, CA Chinese Chamber of Commerce spokesperson, Rose Pak, commented on the uproar about the sales of frogs, soft-shelled turtles and pheasants: "People don't understand that these are not pets. They've been raised to be eaten." [From Bill Burnett] So, where are the farms which raise frogs and soft-shelled turtles? I've been active in the herp community for ten years and don't believe that the amphibians and reptiles I've seen in Chinese food stores are anything but wild-caught. Pak said that if the city of San Francisco bans the sales of live foods the "essence of Chinatown will disintegrate." A merchant said, ":This is the way food is meant to be: Fresh... maximum nutrients, maximum taste, maximum heath." To which we can add "maximum Salmonella bacteria" based on the conditions of live animals in Chicago Chinatowns' food stores.

Lagerto, lagerto!

A 3-foot gator has been reported from a tiny lake in the Presidio near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA. Nobody has been able to catch it, including an imported Florida gator hunter flown in by the Chronicle for an all-expenses-paid gator catching trip. Next the San Francisco Examiner drove out to the lake to try to save the gator from the Chronicle's hunter. Protestors held signs reading "Welcome to Gator Lake. Home of Al, the vicious duckling-eating Gator," and "Al-1. Trapper Jim-0." [Orlando, FL Sentinel August 23, 1996 from Bill Burnett]

An Australian government pamphlet for crocodile handlers warns "Do not sit on the back of the crocodile... [and do not] place any part of one's body in the mouth of a crocodile." [Chicago Sun-Times, July 23, 1996 from Steve Ragsdale]

A 7-year-old Brazilian tourist was cycling in the Everglades National Park when he fell off his bike and into a canal parallelling the bike trail. An alligator bit him; his parents jumped into the water and freed him. He and his mother were treated for puncture wounds at a local hospital. It was the first visitor-alligator accident since the park was created in 1947, according to the park superintendent. [Orlando Sentinel, July 15; Memphis, TN Commercial Appeal, July 23 both from Bill Burnett; Times-Picayune, July 17 from Ernie Liner; and Albuquerque, NM Journal, July 17, 1996 from J.N. Stuart]

Your traffic hot-spot this fall

Officials at the Shawnee National Forest closed roads in the Larue-Pine Hills region of the Forest to vehicular traffic to protect snakes crossing roads from swamps to areas where they overwinter. The roads were closed when it was discovered that motorists were deliberately trying to run over snakes and will be closed again in spring for the reverse migration. The park is home to timber rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cottonmouths as well as a suite of non- venomous species. [Chicago Sun-Times, October 16, 1996]

Chilling experience

Workers delivering a new refrigerator were surprised by a 3-foot snake which they found unexpectedly in the back of their delivery van. The store manager said, "It was embarrassing when the [female] pet store owner picked it up and petted it like a little kitten, after it had scared our delivery men." She identified it as a red-tail Columbian boa constrictor and installed it in a tank at her store while trying to find the owner. [Portage, IN Post-Tribune, August 7, 1996 from Jack Schoenfelder]

CHS Members' News

Ardis Allen of Bonita Springs, FL has been fighting to try to keep her pet gators which she had brought with her from Idaho when she moved to Florida. The fight is now over, and the gators have been moved to Octagon Wildlife Sanctuary in Charlotte County, FL. Ardis said that she's going to miss having them around, but that she couldn't afford to fight city hall any more. [Fort Myers, FL News Press, July 19, 1996]

Tom Anton is working as a wildlife biologist for the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, doing a herp survey for Cook County funded by the U.S. Forest Service. [Chicago Reader, August 30, 1996 from Ray Boldt]

Rick Dowling of Prattville, AL completed a degree in wildlife biology and is working for The Prattville Progress newspaper taking photos and rescuing snakes. Recently, he took a 4-foot gray rat snake out of a toilet in a mobile home. [September 7, 1996]

Jim Nesci on WJJG-AM 1530: "You never want to associate your hand with food" when dealing with your pet reptiles! [from Steve Ragsdale]

Bill Montgomery reports from Texas: "The outcome of the Barton Springs salamander issue was that Bruce Babbitt denied it endangered species status."

Thanks to everybody who contributed

and to: Bill Burnett, J.N. Stuart, Ray Boldt, P.L Beltz, Steve Ragsdale, Chuck Keating, Mark T. Witwer, and Maggie Jones. To contribute, send whole pages of newspaper or clippings with date/publication slug firmly attached, and your name to me.

December 1996

Deformed frog roundup

Every so often there's a story so "big" that it echoes around in the media, with one outlet copying from another without necessarily rechecking their facts on each rebound. So it is with the "Deformed Frogs" story. The whole story (as best as I can piece it together) is that a class of Minnesota middle-school children were on a field trip on August 8, 1995 in Henderson, MN when they found a total of 22 frogs, 11 of which were deformed with extra limbs, or extra skin, or missing eyes. Subsequently deformed frogs have been found at more than 100 sites in 54 of 87 Minnesota counties. A $123,000 emergency legislative grant was awarded to the University of Minnesota to research the deformed frog problem. A symposium on the issue was held in Duluth, MN in early October, 1996. "Early evidence points to something in the water... Two theories... One is that the frogs have become infested with naturally occurring parasites... called a trematode... but most of the conferees were skeptical, and so - in the end was [the scientist who proposed the theory, Stan Sessions]. `I came here convinced that parasites were the cause of deformed frogs,' Sessions said. `But what I've heard here is causing me to think that environmental degradation is somehow contributing.'... One study from Canada has established a relationship between frog deformities and the local use of farm pesticides... [other] possible causes are viral or bacterial disease, the presence of various heavy metals known to cause birth defects, acidification of the water, and even increasing ultraviolet radiation as the Earth's ozone layer is depleted." [Washington Post/Newsday October 15, 1996 from Joseph Jannsen]

Jim Zimmerman sent a story from the Ohio Plain Dealer which reports on a malformed toad found in Fayette County which was found on September 21 near Washington Court House by Jeff Davis, a vertebrate zoology and herpetology professor at Miami University. A student who is caring for the animal says "It's fine. It's just got an extra left arm. It's a little bit smaller than the other arms and it's only got one finger. Sometimes he leans on his side and that extra arm will just prop him up." [Also the Bucyrus, Ohio Telegraph Forum, October 21, 1996 from Bill Burnett]

"Only a few deformed frogs have been found in Wisconsin... including one with five legs," according to University of Wisconsin-Madison workers reports the Wisconsin State Journal. One professor speculated that frogs may be more vulnerable than other vertebrates because of their aquatic larval state. Over 1,000 frogs were captured in the Fox River-Green Bay area, none were deformed. The few deformed frogs found in the state have all been from southern Wisconsin. October 10, 1996 from Dreux Watermoelen]

The San Francisco Examiner broke a local story of a Sierra College biologist who speculated that "an insidious snake parasite is infiltrating the frog population, causing grotesque malformations in the process." He's been studying salamanders and frogs with "massive deformities" in an Aptos, California pond since 1990. Up to 10 percent of bullfrog metamorphs have an extra limb, a deformed eye or a missing leg. "He told the Sacramento Bee that the pond is too far above mining areas to suffer from remnant toxicity. He also ruled out heavy metal contamination because the frogs showed no neurological damage. Instead, [he] suggested that a parasitic fluke left behind by carnivorous birds may be preying on the frog population to complete its reproductive cycle." [Wisconsin State Journal, October 22, 1996 from Dreux Watermoelen]

The general public, and the editors of newspapers, are concerned. The general consensus is that the deformed amphibians are a sign of a compromised environment and that we (humans) may be next on the deformity list. Ron Haybron, writing in The Plain Dealer: "Coal miners used to take canaries with them to detect the accumulation of dangerous gases... A dead canary meant it was time to get out of the mine. We may be getting a similar warning... For the last 10 years, naturalists have been noting that amphibian populations are dwindling in an assortment of habitats around the world... Amphibians managed to live through whatever influences killed off the dinosaurs, but they may not be able to survive us." [October 22, 1996 from Jim Zimmerman]

Plus ca change, plus le meme chose

"The Rattle-snakes have their Winter-habitations on our Hills, in hideous Caves, and the Clefts of Inaccessible Rocks. In the Spring they come forth, and ly a Sunning themselves, but still in pretty feeble circumstances. Our Trained Bands in some of our Countrey towns, take this time to carry on a War with the Snakes, and make the killing of them, a part of their Discipline." Cotton Mather, 1712 [quoted in the Providence, Rhode Island Sunday Journal, October 20, 1996 from Mark T. Witwer] Timber rattlesnakes are believed to be extinct in Maine and Rhode Island and pressured in Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire. Police in Tavares, Florida responded to a "snake in my back yard call" from a distraught resident. They blew the 5-foot rattlesnake away with a shotgun. [Orlando, FL Sentinel September 11, 1996 from Bill Burnett]

On the other side of the coin

Researchers in New Mexico are radiotracking the rare ridgenose rattlesnake (Crotalus willardi obscurus) with help from volunteers from around the world who give up the comforts of home to live in a canvas tent two miles from the nearest trail in a practically waterless environment. Andy Holycross, the researcher in charge from Arizona State University is two years into a three- year field study in the Animas Mountains and has placed ads in various publications outlining the hardships of the study - yet volunteers keep coming to the remote Gray Ranch to help. So far, researchers have found that there are about four times as many ridgenose rattlers than previously known and are studying whether the species is genetically distinct from two other populations in nearby mountain ranges. Illegal collectors for the international pet trade have damaged habitat while searching for the elusive species which reportedly brings up to $5,000 from wealthy European collectors "seeking to round out their herpetological collections. In the United States, it is illegal to possess a ridgenose rattlesnake, dead or alive." [Tempe, Arizona New Times, September 19 - 25, 1996 from Tom Taylor]

Federal mathematics faulty

By August 24, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) documented 2,062 dead sea turtles on southeastern Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico beaches. Many had heads and flippers cut off, or shells hacked open. Of the total 1,208 were loggerheads and 240 were Kemp's ridley sea turtles. NMFS is reportedly unable to act unless an "Incidental Take Limit" of 515 Kemp's ridleys is exceeded. [HEART Newsletter, October 1996; also October Ladies Home Journal] Does anybody but me remember a few years ago when scientists were saying there were about 500 breeding females? So now, NMFS won't do anything until a quarter of the presumed remaining population of Kemp's are killed in a year? What does that give the species - about three or four years to extinction?

Every one counts, said biologist

Two deer hunters on Montague Island at the entrance to Prince William Sound, Alaska found a 170-pound green sea turtle alive, but stranded on the rocks. At first they thought it was dead, but they put it in their boat where it began to show signs of life. The Cordova Volunteer Fire Department removed it from the boat and administered first aid and a researcher at the Science Center put out a call for help on the Internet. The turtle was warmed up very slowly to prevent shock or even a heart attack, then shipped to San Diego for rehab before release. A research biologist at Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute said "The population of green sea turtles is in very serous trouble. There's been a population drop of 90 percent in the past 50 years and we need to realize that saving even one is worth the effort." [October 20, 1996, Contra Costa Times from new contributor Carla Pettey; New York Times from P.L. Beltz and E.A. Zorn]

Corporate math

Turtles plus tourist equal big bucks in Hilton Hotel "green team" campaign at Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. During May, the hotel's seaside lights are turned off so that loggerhead turtles will come to their shore to nest. It's a win-win-win equation. Tourists enjoy being part of the egg-laying experience and stay in the hotel. So the turtles lay eggs, the corporation makes money and everybody is happy. [Chicago Tribune, April 22, 1996 from Steve Ragsdale]

New disease in Galapagos

Rare Galapagos tortoises threatened by increasing human populations on these remote Ecuadorian islands are reported to be suffering from a new, mysterious, infectious disease which has already killed seven tortoises out of 70 afflicted on the island of Santa Cruz. Authorities have isolated the afflicted tortoises and closed the area to tourists in an effort to restrict the spread of the disease. High numbers of nematodes have been found the in the dead tortoises' stomachs, but researchers do not know if these worm-like creatures are linked to the deaths. [Associated Press, NY November 8, 1996 from Allen Salzberg, via e-mail]

System one, salamanders zero

The Oakland Tribune reports: "Although [developers'] bulldozers may have dealt the final blow, [they] didn't destroy what could be Fremont [California's] last unprotected clan of California tiger salamanders - a system did. Created to produce compromise between developers and environmentalists battling over the country's last wildlands, the system is a maze of often ill- defined regulations, policies, and laws carried out by overlapping agencies who often disagree over definitions, procedures and goals... At first, it seemed Fremont's hillside initiative, which was passed in 1981 to protect the hills from development, would protect the salamanders home." Unfortunately, the rule was open to interpretation and the ruling favored developers who will be building an 18-hole golf course on the last remaining salamander habitat in the town. [September 1, 1996; no name on clipping]

Suit seeks salamander protection

The Barton Springs salamander has some strong support from the Save Our Springs Alliance which filed a lawsuit in federal court asking that Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt's decision not to list the salamander as endangered be reversed. In addition the suit seeks to have the listing of the salamander reconsidered under the requirements of the Endangered Species Act. The Austin American Statesman reports "In 1994, Babbitt proposed listing the salamander as endangered. Two years later, he withdrew his proposal, citing a conservation agreement in which three state agencies - the Texas Department of Transportation, Natural Resources Conservation Commission and the Parks and Wildlife Department - would assist the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department [sic] in protecting the species. The lawsuit says Babbitt, by law, could only withdraw the proposal if he found insufficient evidence to support the listing." [October 13, 1996 from William B. Montgomery]

Swedes sacrifice turtles

An illegal consignment of 1,000 endangered turtles from Tajikistan (former USSR) was confiscated at Stockholm airport. The importer had planned on selling them as pets, but did not have the necessary import papers. Reportedly fearing infection, Swedish authorities decided to euthanize the entire consignment by freezing the animals to death even though the Tortoise Trust had offered financial assistance to save the tortoises. [Financial Times, October 30, 1996 from P.L. Beltz]

Box turtles listed

The state of Indiana has listed the ornate box turtle on the state endangered species list. The turtle has been a target of collectors for an expanding international trade in pet tortoises. Ornate box turtles are not federally listed, but he U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service set a zero export limit on all box turtles after consideration of many factors including the fact that more than 71,000 box turtles were shipped overseas from 1992-1995. [Indiana Courier-Journal, November 7, 1996 from E. A. Zorn]

More snakes bite people

The increasing popularity of snakes as pets seems to be leading to a rash of snake bite incidents as reported in the popular press. The most recent bite occurred in Cranston, RI when a 7-year-old boy tried to play with his 8-foot Burmese python after school. The father said that the snake "has been a family pet since he was that big," holding up one cupped hand to show how tiny "Zipper" was as a baby. Other northeastern U.S. incidents in the recent past include the capture of an unclaimed 8-foot Burmese under a car, the escape of an Egyptian cobra in Stoneham, Massachusetts, and the confiscation of four venomous snakes from a Rhode Island resident. The cobra is still missing. [Providence, RI Journal-Bulletin, August 31, 1996 from Mark T. Witwer]

New York Newsday reports that a 50-year-old North Massapequa man secretly kept a dozen pet snakes in a home he shared with his mother had his secret blown for him when he was admitted to hospital after being bitten by an African puff adder while he was milking it for venom. A neighbor said that no one (including his mother) knew the man kept snakes. The neighbors are reportedly "furious." Officers from the Nassau Police removed eight rattlesnakes, two African puff adders, and two unidentified snakes from the home. The man could be charged under the town's ordinance prohibiting dangerous animals. The photo which accompanied the story showed workers carrying out a three-foot fiberglass cage and what looks to be a small fish tank. [October 30, 1996 from Joseph Jannsen]

Poachers in Mexico

Two men were arrested by Mexican Federal police who seized 9,000 tortoise eggs poached from a Pacific breeding ground of the protected Caguama tortoise in Jalisco state. While Mexico has strict anti-poaching laws, thousands of miles of rugged and remote coastline and a limited number of enforcement officers make capture of wildlife poachers a rare event. Eggs, meat and shells from the Caguama tortoise are sold on the black market from time to time. [Concord. New Hampshire Monitor, October 16, 1996 from Brian Carter] - While an anti-government guerrilla group attacked a tourist resort near Escobilla, Osaka state, nearly 200 poachers descended on Escobilla Beach and "scooped hundreds of thousands of eggs the size of ping-pong balls from the sand and butchered untold numbers of female [olive ridley sea] turtles as they flailed frantically back towards the sea," reports the Austin American Statesman. Mexican conservationists were appalled and describe the mega-poaching as the "single most damaging poaching attack on Mexico's sea turtles since the government enacted the law protecting them." [October 13, 1996 from William B. Montgomery]

Born to be wild

Seven of 13 exotic turtles kept in a wire pen in Conway, Arkansas escaped after a 100-pound African spur-thighed tortoise pushed over part of their fence. The owner found out when one of her neighbors showed up with a 30-pound tortoise in his arms. She quickly printed up fliers and after several adventures, all seven fugitives were returned. She estimates that some tortoises "travel anywhere from 10 to 20 miles in a day. We were amazed. We didn't know how far these guys could go." An escape-proof turtle house was erected on the site of the demolished pen. [Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 7, 1996 from Bill Burnett]

Living hell

Nearly 200 birds and reptiles without food or water were found in a closed pet shop in Belmont, California. Many of the animals were starving - some had already died. "A lizard with a rotting leg and a normally plump python without any body fat were among the 190 animals found inside the Natural Life Aquarium... 35 animals were dead said [the Peninsula Humane Society] spokeswoman... " according to the Contra Costa Times, October 30, 1996. The society plans to care for the animals and put survivors up for adoption. The San Mateo County District Attorney plans to file charges against the unnamed owner of the shop. [from Carla Pettey]

Jock straps recommended

A report in the Mount Horeb, Wisconsin Shopper Stopper reads: "An alligator has recently been spotted in the Wisconsin River near the Mazomanie nude beach. The state Department of Natural Resources has concluded that the alligator will die from the cold weather this year." A state senator is assembling a team of alligator trappers to try to catch the animal. Alligator sightings in Wisconsin can be phoned in to Senator Dale Schultz.

Lost and found

A 12-foot python was found by a family bicycling near Berrien Springs, Indiana in late October. They headed for the first house, where the farmer said that it probably was just a big black snake, but headed out to look anyway. One glance and the police were called in. An officer captured the cold snake and called around until he found a fifth-grade teacher willing to take on the care and feeding of a large snake. The teacher thinks the snake was probably a released pet. He said, "People get an animal like this when they're small and they get unmanageable when they get big. Then, rather than find a home for them, they just release them. That's not fair to either the animal or the neighbors." [South Bend Tribune, November 1, 1996 for Garrett Kazmierski]

Looking for a write-off?

Here's some year-end suggestions to lighten your checkbook and support nonprofit herp-helpers.
  1. HEART (Help Endangered Animals - Ridley Turtles, P.O. Box 681231, Houston, TX 77268- 1231 works for turtle excluder device implementation and Turtle-Safe Tuna programs.
  2. Marine Mammal Stranding Center, P.O. Box 773, Brigantine, NJ 08203 assists stranded marine animals including turtles and indigenous animals including box turtles. This year they found a decrease in turtle strandings with only 25 washed up dead and three alive. Of the three survivors, two were loggerheads and one was a Kemp's ridley which later died of its massive injuries which appeared to be prop cuts.


New contributor David Wright wrote: "Last year you carried a story from Reuters of a possible feral alligator in England. My parents live half a mile from Astbury Mere, Congleton, Cheshire. The lake in question is a flooded quarry. They were on vacation at the time and didn't see any local press coverage, but local hearsay is that there were no further sightings and suggests it was only a pike. Anyway, I saw the water so frozen over last January [that] a swan trapped in the ice had to be freed by the Fire Department. The question is now clearly moot!" David also sent a clipping from the November 1, 1996 Internal Medicine News which details the latest news on the Denver Zoo alleged Komodo Salmonella outbreak last January. Dr. Cindy R. Friedman reported at the American Society for Microbiology meeting in New Orleans that 48 primary cases and 17 individual cases, including 39 culture-confirmed individuals, have been "traced to the zoo... [after] attendance at the special exhibit [of Komodo dragons]... The affected individuals ranged in age from 3 months to 48 years, with a median age of 7... Investigation of the outbreak showed that one of the four Komodo dragons in the exhibit had a stool culture positive for Salmonella enteridis. While the exhibit was set up, the floor of the pen was covered with mulch and animals were brought into the pen one at a time, so it was likely that all of them had contaminated feces on their feet, Dr. Friedman noted. In addition, investigators obtained positive cultures from samples... taken from sections of the wooden barrier... during the exhibit, a chain on posts had been placed outside the wooden barrier, separating viewers from the temporary pen, but it was possible to step over or under the chain and touch the barrier, and photographs of the event show that some visitors did that, Dr. Friedman said."

Thanks to this month's contributors

and to Steve Ragsdale, Jack Schoenfelder, Ray Boldt (first appearance of the endangered species stamps Alligator and Toad), Ernie Liner, and Mark Witwer for duplicates, cartoons, letters, and other stuff not easily summarized. The file folder is now really empty - so if you've been planning to send clippings (with the date/publication slug and your name firmly attached) - make a New Year's Resolution come true. Just stuff those pages of newspaper into an envelope and address it to me.

My new book!
Frogs: Inside Their Remarkable World
by Ellin Beltz
Read another column...

1987 . 1988 . 1989 . 1990 . 1991 . 1992 .

1993 . 1994 . 1995 . 1996 . 1997 . 1998 .

1999 . 2000 . 2001 . 2002 . 2003 . 2004 .

2005 . 2006

Or learn the Names of the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America:
translations of the scientific names, list of common names, biographies of those honored, citations of original descriptions and other information.
Visit my Homepage
Ellin Beltz /
January 10, 2008

Valid HTML 4.01!