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NEWSFILE: CONSERVATION (#18a)

REINTRODUCTIONS: BEAVER PATROL

Scotland awaits the beaver's return
The Independent - 14 July 1998

The prospect of the beaver again being seen on the backwaters of Scotland’s rivers increased yesterday with a declaration of support from the World Wide Fund for Nature - a body closely involved in the hefty rodent's successful reintroduction elsewhere in Europe.

Hunted to extinction in the British Isles more than 400 years ago, the beaver has become the favoured candidate of those who want to turn back the wilderness clock in Scotland. Notions of bringing back the wolf have proved more controversial and have been denounced as a whimsy of ‘suburban dinner-party conservationists’.

However, not everyone is happy with the idea of the beaver's return. Anglers in particular think the dam-building creature could be the last straw for salmon populations already seriously depleted on many rivers.

This week sees the end of a four-month consultation period on Scottish Natural Heritage's (SNH) proposals for the reintroduction. As an enthusiast for the beaver, SNH, the Government's nature adviser north of the border, is leaving analysis of the responses to an independent firm of consultants, whose report will be published. If a decision eventually goes in favour of reintroduction, the first beavers could be released in two years.

WWF, in its submission, says there is abundant scientific evidence that the beaver can help improve the conservation value of sites. The otter, water vole, trout and salmon can all benefit from beavers’ coppiceing of trees, small-scale dam building and grazing of aquatic vegetation, it claims.

‘The beaver is apparently misunderstood, some even think it eats fish, yet it is a vegetarian,’ said Martin Mathers, WWF Scotland's policy officer. Nor is the European beaver an aggressive dam-builder, unlike its American cousin. It generally only builds dams when suitable river bank sites have been used up - to keep the water level above the entrance to its lodge home - and even then the dams are only about 12-18in high, and easily jumped by a salmon.

‘There is no reason why the beaver cannot be reintroduced in a manner which safeguards fishing and forestry interests, as our experience in Europe shows. It can become a fisherman's friend, a tourist's treat and a symbol of the restoration of Scotland's once vibrant river systems,’ Mr Mathers said.

Beavers weigh up to 20kg and each one is estimated to fell two tons of timber a year in its hunt for food - the bark of birches and aspens in winter, and grass, herbs and shrubs in summer.

SNH believes Scotland could support about 1,000 of them, mainly contributors of the Ness, Spey, Tay, Dee-Don and Lomond rivers.

However, these are the same Highland river systems beloved of salmon anglers. Jeremy Read, director of the Atlantic Salmon Trust, thinks beaver dams could obstruct fish migration, especially during low water. They could threaten food supplies, as running-water invertebrates, on which salmon feed, would be replaced by still-water invertebrates.

The Salmon and Trout Association (STA) maintains that the beaver could be one threat too many in salmon spawning grounds. Fiona Willis, vice-chairman of the Scottish Council of the STA, said the salmon, unlike the beaver, was a valuable part of Scotland's image: ‘Are we sacrificing something that is very much associated with Scotland for something which isn't?’

But when Duncan Halley, of the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, tested Scottish anglers' concerns in Norway, where reintroduced beavers are common on salmon rivers, he was greeted with surprise or hilarity. ‘I have yet to find any published evidence to suggest fish stocks are harmed in any way,’ Dr Halley said. ‘It seems the people who have got the beaver have no problem and the people with the problem have got no beaver.‘

REINTRODUCTIONS: MUSSELS OF LOVE

JULY 10, 1998 - USA TODAY Pennsylvania Pittsburgh - The state will have to relocate two endangered species of river mussels before rebuilding the Kennerdell Bridge in Venango County. The riffleshell and club-shell mussels were found along the Allegheny River in August.

REINTRODUCTIONS: I GO APE

Indonesian orang-utans reintroduced to jungle after forest fires AP JAKARTA, Indonesia (20 Sep 98)

Thirty-six orang-utans rescued from devastating forest fires last year have been released back into the wild Sunday. Workers at a primate refuge center said they reintroduced the apes into unburned jungle habitat in East Kalimantan province. The orang-utans, 17 males and 19 females, were flown in Saturday from the Wanariset Samboja refuge, said veterinarian Amir Ma'arif. The apes were brought to the refugee over several months last year after fires forced them to flee their old habitats. About 1.2 million acres of forest were burned by the fires, which also produced a choking smoke haze over much of Southeast Asia. The number of orang-utans living in Borneo has dwindled from an estimated high of 20,000 to around 2,000 because much of their habitat has been destroyed by development and fires.

REINTRODUCTIONS: BIFFALO BUFFALO BISON

EUROPEAN bison could be soon back in the English countryside, 400 years after they died out. Biologists believe the 1,800lb, 6 ft 4 in high animal could be used to clear scrub and undergrowth, recreating, a more ‘natural’ flora. Unlike its American cousin, a separate species, the European bison tends to browse - or munch trees, and leaves - rather than graze. It is mainly found in the wild in the Bialowieza forest in eastern Poland and over the border in Russia.

The European bison was killed in large numbers for its meat during the First World War and died out in, 1927 but was then reintroduced from zoos. It was thought to have survived so long in the wild because it was a retiring forest creature. Simon Wakefield from Marwell Zoo, near Winchester, Hants, said: ‘One problem we do have is that bison are considered dangerous under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act and you can only put them in places where they do not come into contact with the public.

‘They are an awful lot bigger than most things and are extremely effective at opening up woodland areas. We had them at the zoo and they pushed over all the birch trees in their paddock.‘ Mr Wakefield is hosting a conference at the zoo in Oct, when animal experts from all over Britain will discuss how best the bison might be reintroduced.

He said: ‘At the moment they are mainly using domestic and rare breeds. ‘We see the possibility not only of looking after habitat but also of reintroducing species which were once native to Britain.‘ Historically, Britain would have had patches of woodland cleared by bison. The zoo hopes to introduce the bison to fenced heathland in the grounds of the Defence Evaluation Research Agency at Farnborough, Hants.

However, the final decision will rest with local authorities, who are likely to be wary. In Yellowstone, the American national park, bison roam free but tourists who have approached too close have often been gored.

CUT THROAT BUSINESS - BUT RATHER FISHY

Oct 10, Wyoming Cheyenne - The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to decide whether to declare the Yellowstone cut-throat trout as a threatened species.

SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service withdraws the proposed rule, published in the Federal Register on August 2, 1995, to list the black legless lizard (Anniella pulchra nigra) as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The black legless lizard is now known to occur in a much wider variety of habitat than previously thought, and the threats to its survival have decreased since the proposed rule was published. The Installation-Wide Multispecies Habitat Management Plan (HMP) for Former Fort Ord, now provides preservation and habitat management on 546 hectares (ha) (1,366 acres (ac)) of coastal and interior dune sheets occupied by the black legless lizard.

Elsewhere, a large proportion of the remaining habitat of the black legless lizard is already protected from urbanisation and commercial development on public lands, and widespread losses of habitat are unlikely to continue in the foreseeable future. Recent and ongoing restoration efforts on dunes colonised by alien vegetation are likely to benefit the black legless lizard. Furthermore, extensive new invasion of existing black legless lizard habitat by alien plants is unlikely to occur. Based on this information the Service concludes that listing of the black legless lizard is not warranted.

SLIPPERY SMUGGLER

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) - Something squirmed suspiciously inside 54 boxes being run through the X-ray machine at Jakarta's international airport: 1,020 cobras. Not that the live - and legal - eels listed on documents accompanying the boxes wouldn't have wriggled a bit. But Lukas Tonga, head of the airport's animal quarantine center, told The Jakarta Post that officers questioned the contents because they were more active than usual. Police said the cobras were being smuggled to China, where the meat and skin of the prized snakes fetch high prices. They arrested the man handling the cargo's documents; the snakes were taken to a Jakarta zoo for temporary care. Eels, a popular menu item in parts of Asia, can be shipped, but cobras are protected in Indonesia and their export is forbidden. Smugglers face up to five years in prison and $7,700 fines.

TROUSER SNAKES THREATEN AUSSIE WILDLIFE

Smuggled green pythons intercepted at Cairns airport in May were carrying a new virus that may have had the potential to devastate Australia's native reptiles, fish and amphibians. The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) seized the 10 smuggled snakes as they were being brought into the country hidden in a man's trousers. Two of the snakes died soon afterward and were sent to the CSIRO Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) in Geelong, Victoria, for testing.

A team of AAHL scientists isolated a virus from both snakes that belongs to a group of viruses that cause disease in Australian fish and amphibians. ‘It's possible that this virus, which hasn't been identified in Australia before, could have seriously affected Australia's valuable aqua culture industry as well as our wildlife, ’ says Dr Deborah Middleton of CSIRO Animal Health. ‘We know this type of virus can cause disease across a range of species, and survives well in the environment. ‘AQIS Executive Director Paul Hickey says the organisation works in close co-operation with organisations such as AAHL to protect Australia.

‘We also need the community's help - everyone has a role to play in protecting Australia's unique environment, plants and animals from exotic pests and diseases. ‘Australia's geographical isolation protected us in the past, but rapid travel now makes us terribly vulnerable to exotic diseases. We should always remember that it's often difficult to spot any signs of disease until the animals become seriously ill - and that 's too late to prevent infection of other animals, ’ says Mr Hickey. Two people were sentenced in a Cairns court yesterday for their part in smuggling the diseased snakes into Australia. All the intercepted snakes have since been sent to AAHL for testing.

As a follow-up, an Australian reptile keeper who is already before the Courts facing more than 50 unrelated charges involving his dealings with reptiles has been charged in connection with the above importations by both the Australian Customs Service and the Queensland Police Fauna Squad. In herpetological circles rumours are rife over the man's alleged relationship with certain senior officers of the Queensland Department of Environment in Cairns, who failed to act on previous allegations. The same man had been issued a wildlife demonstrator licence in Queensland by a senior DEH law enforcement officer, despite the application having been originally rejected by the appropriate licensing officials, and despite having been previously convicted of wildlife offences in New South Wales. It is also alleged that the person charged had been a part-time employee of the Department of Environment, and had worked in their office in Innisfail, QLD. He is due to appear in the Innisfail Magistrates Court on 16 Sept, 1998.

TIME FOR A PYJAMA CASE JOKE?

Twin giant pandas born in China (Reuters) - China has added two new baby pandas to its stock of the endangered beasts, the China Daily said Friday. Cheng Cheng, a 13-year-old panda at the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Base in the southwestern province of Sichuan, had given birth to the twins on Thursday, the newspaper said. The fourth and fifth pandas born at the breeding center this year weighed five and two ounces, it said. It was the fourth time Cheng Cheng had given birth, the center said but gave no further details. Pandas are notoriously difficult to breed in captivity, and their numbers have dwindled as human development and poachers encroach on their natural habitat in the lush bamboo forests of Sichuan. Only 1,000 pandas are believed to be left in the wild.

SAME SUBJECT - NO JOKE

Seven arrested in China for trading giant panda skins. Sept 8, 1998

Police have arrested seven people suspected of trying to buy or sell pelts of the severely endangered giant panda. The official newspaper China Daily reported today that authorities confiscated a 4 1/2-foot long panda pelt during the arrests Wednesday in the northern city of Xi'an. Poaching has hindered government efforts to protect the panda, a species indigenous only to China. There are fewer than 1,000 giant pandas alive today.

SALMON CANNED

Aug 4. 1998 - USA TODAY SALMON THREATENED: Oregon coastal coho salmon were listed by the federal government as a threatened species, forcing the state to scramble to protect its plan that relies on voluntary efforts to save the fish. The National Marine Fisheries Service listed the coho after court rulings disagreed with its position to keep the salmon off the list as a way to give Oregon's plan, which focuses on habitat restoration by private landowners such as timber companies, a chance to work.

More than 1 million Coho once returned to Oregon’s coastal streams, but last year only 24,000 wild fish came back. This year's return is expected to be even lower. Environmentalists won a lawsuit forcing the federal agency to list the coho as a threatened species, which carries fines of up to $25,000 for actions that hurt fish or their habitat.

- From the NewsNet-21 website - August 3rd, 1998

HORNY JAILBIRD

A man serving a life sentence for murdering his wife, 6 3-year-old Wilfred Bull, is to have the world's largest haul of rhino horn returned to him. The horn was confiscated from Bull in February after he had been convicted of trying to sell it. But the Court of Appeal ruled in June that the horns should be returned to Bull, as they'd been collected before strict import control s were introduced under the 1985 Control of Trade in Endangered Species Act. The RSPCA, describing the judgement (upheld by the Court on 31 July ) as ‘extremely disappointing', said it would have 'severe ramifications worldwide'.

Although the world ban on the sale of rhino horn began in 1985, similar laws were in force in Britain from 1976 : the RSPCA said Bull should have had to prove that the horns had been imported before the earlier laws came into force. GOPHER ALERT

Prairie Dogs an Endangered Species. A.P. - COLORADO CITY, Texas (AP) - For years, rancher Jim McAdams and his farming neighbours fought the good fight against the prairie dogs infesting their lands. They tried poisoning the furry brown gopher-sized burrowers. Drowning them. Even yanking them out of the ground with their bare hands. But in the end, it was McAdams who eventually left his small ranch in Colorado City. The pesky dogs still run rampant.

Now the rodents are being pitched as a new addition to the nation's endangered species, and McAdams and other ranchers and farmers are hopping mad. ‘I'd have to see some hard data to convince me they need to endangered species,’ McAdams said. ‘I mean, come on, those things are everywhere.’ McAdams now works as employee on a company-owned ranch outside of Lubbock, but he still remembers his losing battle with the varmints. ‘We couldn't keep them off the land. All you could do was control the population and try to keep it to a reasonable level.’

If the black-tailed prairie dogs were given the status of endangered species, they would be protected by law and farmers and ranchers could be required to meet strict regulations on attempts to control their population, even on their own property.

Some Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association officials have vowed to resist the effort, which they brand conservation overkill. The National Wildlife Federation has petitioned the Office of Endangered Species of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, claiming the black-tailed prairie dogs are nearly extinct and asking that they be protected. The service has until Oct's end to decide if a full investigation is needed, and then another year to decide whether the animal makes the list.

Prairie dogs are small rodents closely related to squirrels. They live in tunnel networks called towns that can contain thousands of dogs. Known for their barking cries, they often sit in rows out in the open, and are quick to drop into their burrows at any sign of danger. While cute, even endearing, from a distance, prairie dogs irritate landowners who say their tunnel networks kill grass and turn hay fields into dusty, useless deserts. The dogs' homes, which are small, hand-sized holes, also area danger to cattle and horses who could break their legs if they step in while running, cattlemen say. But the days of huge dog towns across the Plains are nearly gone, wildlife officials say.

Less than three years ago, there were 100 million to 250 million acres of prairie dog colonies across the United States, according to a National Wildlife Federation report. Now there are only about 800,000 acres of dog towns. Those that remain are smaller and farther apart then they used to be, said Tom France, a National Wildlife Federation official who helped forward the petition. Wildlife experts say that means the dog colonies are more likely to be completely wiped out by a disease. The dogs also have been affected by the encroachment of farmland into their habitat. ‘When you look at the factors that cause a species to go extinct, the prairie dog faces all of them,’ France said. ‘We have to take a look at what we have done to the animal and decide that it is worth saving.‘

Still, one doesn't have to go far in West Texas to find a prairie dog. In Lubbock, a field in front of a local television station has long been the home of a vast prairie dog village that attracts neighborhood children. Part of a city park has been designated ‘Prairie Dog Town,’ with a scenic hiking path through a field filled with dogs. Gay Balfour, who became famous among farmers for inventing a vacuum-like contraption to catch prairie dogs, says he sees plenty of them. ‘Well, to the places I go, you'd almost think the dogs outnumber the people,’ Balfour said. ‘Maybe I should be involved in the count.‘

Wildlife workers say farmers and ranchers aren't looking past their own backyards. ‘Just because there are a dozen dogs on someone's property doesn't mean that the animal isn't in danger,’ France said.

FERTILE TURTLE: Police seize stolen eggs of protected. Sept 8, 1998

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Federal police have arrested five people and seized 26 ,000 turtle eggs in the southern state of Oaxaca in their latest crackdown on poachers. The seizure took place near the Pacific coast in Santiago Astata, 320 miles southeast of Mexico City, the government's Notimex news agency reported late Monday. The truck carrying the eggs was impounded.

Traffic in sea turtle eggs, long considered a delicacy, is banned in Mexico, which has tried to protect a number of beaches where the turtles emerge from the sea to lay their eggs. Last week, police seized 89,000 turtle eggs in another operation. FALCON HECK

ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH Aug 26 , 1998 Government protection helps peregrine falcon come back. Boisie, Idaho.

Peregrine falcons had been under federal protection for eight years by the time Jamie Rappaport Clark found her calling while studying the rare bird of prey in college. Clark is now director of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and she had good news Tuesday. ‘I've waited for a long time to say these five words: The peregrine falcon is back, ’ she said as she announced a plan to remove the world's fastest bird from the endangered species list. The bird first gained protection in 1970, but its numbers fell to a low of 324 nesting pairs in 1975. But with the ban of the pesticide DDT in 1972, the bird has recovered, and now there are now almost 1,600 pairs in the country. A final decision on taking peregrines off the endangered list will come within a year.

The falcon still would be protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In a simultaneous announcement in Georgia, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt released a peregrine atop Stone Mountain near Atlanta. ‘As this bird flies off this mountain today, I hope it carries this message through Georgia and throughout the land, ’ Babbitt said. ‘The Endangered Species Act is working.‘

Wildlife agencies, universities, private organisations and individuals helped the peregrine falcon recover through captive breeding programs and protection of nesting sites. Among the organisations was the Peregrine Fund World Center for Birds of Prey near Boise, which has been responsible for the release of more than 4,000 peregrines since 1974. Peregrines nest on cliffs, the ledges of tall buildings and large bridges. They remain aloft for hours on end in search of prey, swooping in at up to 200 mph and colliding talons-first with small birds or bats.

Over the years, peregrines were shot as a nuisance predator across the West and then were ravaged by DDT. There were only 39 known pairs in the Lower 48 states when they were listed as endangered in 1970. The goal for recovery was 6 31 pairs. Since the American alligator was the first to be removed from the endangered list in the late 1970s, only six other species have recovered enough to be taken off. Peregrines would be the first recovered species to be removed since the gray whale and Arctic peregrine falcon in 1994. - St. Louis Post-Dispatch MORE PANDA STUFF: Male giant panda cub born in western China

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - A male giant panda was born in the southwestern city of Chongqing, the official Xinhua news agency said Wednesday. The cub weighed almost 6 pounds at birth. Its mother Xinxing is from the Chongqing zoo in southwestern China while father Chuanchuan resides at the Shanghai zoo. The two pandas have given birth to seven cubs, but only four have survived. By an agreement between the two zoos, the cub will join his father in Shanghai. Pandas are notoriously difficult to breed in captivity and their numbers have dwindled as human development and poachers encroach on their natural habitat in the lush bamboo forests of Sichuan. China is believed to have fewer than 1,000 giant pandas living in the wild. KOALA KALAMITIES: U.S. wants koalas added to threatened list

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed on Wednesday to classify the koala, a tree-dwelling marsupial indigenous to Australia, as threatened under the terms of U.S. Endangered Species Act. The agency cited habitat destruction as the primary threat to the survival of koalas in the wild. The proposed listing would ban U. S. importation, exportation and interstate or foreign trade of koalas by anyone subject to U.S. law. Exceptions to the trade ban would be allowed for conservation efforts, the agency said. The purpose of listing a foreign animal or plant under the U.S. Endangered Species Act is to raise awareness of the species' plight and the need for conservation measures. IT IS DIFFICULT TO WRITE A HEADLINE FOR THIS STORY WITHOUT RESORTING TO RACIST ABUSE

Japan network mauled over tiger-meat gourmet show.

A leading Japanese television network provoked outrage Friday for showing its entertainers eating and enjoying tiger meat in a cooking program filmed in China. A spokeswoman for the Worldwide Fund for Nature said the Fuji Television program, part of a series entitled ‘World Super Deluxe Rare Cuisine,’ set a terrible example for viewers. In Thursday night's program, three Japanese entertainment personalities shown dining on the tiger at a restaurant in Shanghai, described the meal as delicious and showed no remorse when they learned what they were eating.

MORE SLITHERY SMUGGLERS

A 5-year undercover U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigation that successfully infiltrated the illegal reptile trade ended yesterday with the arrest of an international wildlife dealer and the apprehension of two individuals in this country. The three face Federal charges related to the smuggling and sale of endangered and protected reptiles, including some of the rarest species on earth.

This final phase of ‘Operation Chameleon’ began Sept 14 when Mexican authorities, who worked closely with the Service on this aspect of the case, arrested Keng Liang ‘Anson’ Wong when he arrived at the airport in Mexico City. Wong, who operates Sungai-Rusa Wildlife in Penang, Malaysia, is believed to be the kingpin of an international smuggling operation that plundered reptiles from southeast and central Asia, New Zealand, and Madagascar for sale in the United States and other markets. Wong is wanted in this country on charges of conspiracy, smuggling, money laundering, and making false statements as well as for 14 felony violations of the Lacey Act, a Federal law that allows the United States to prosecute individuals who traffic in illegal or smuggled wildlife. He will be held in Mexico while the United States pursues formal extradition.

After Service special agents confirmed that Wong was in custody in Mexico, they arrested two U. S. citizens also implicated in the case and began executing a series of search warrants in Arizona and California. This sweep targeted individuals and businesses that had allegedly conspired to smuggle wildlife into the United States or that had knowingly bought or sold illegally imported animals. The two men arrested, the owner of an Arizona wildlife import/export business and a San Francisco resident who allegedly served as a courier for Wong, face charges that include conspiracy, smuggling, and Lacey Act violations. A fourth individual, a Hong Kong resident who runs a wildlife import/export business in that city, is also wanted in the case.

‘Reptile smuggling is a high-profit criminal enterprise, and the United States is its largest market,’ said Service Director Jamie Rappaport Clark. ‘Sacrificing the world's legally protected rare species to meet the demand for reptiles prized as exotic live collectibles will not be tolerated by this country or by our global conservation partners. ‘We could not have completed this final phase of Operation Chameleon without tremendous help from the Mexican government. Assistance from the U.S. Customs Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was also crucial. International co-operation and the support of the U.S. Department of Justice have been vital throughout the investigation.‘

Trade of the animals smuggled and sold in this case is regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a global agreement that control s the importation and exportation of hundreds of animals and plants. Commercial traffic in many of these reptiles is prohibited. Some are also protected under the U. S. Endangered Species Act, which outlaws their importation into the United States for commercial purposes.

During Operation Chameleon, the Service uncovered a black market that specialised in some of the world's most unique reptiles, animals that , in many cases, occur only in very specific, geographically isolated habitats and that are already on the brink of extinction. The Komodo dragon, for example, is an endangered species native only to a relatively small area of Indonesia. The tuatara, a lizard-like reptile known as a ‘living fossil’ because other species from its taxonomic order last thrived in the Triassic and Jurassic periods, lives only on 30 small islands in New Zealand. The ploughshare tortoise occurs only on the island of Madagascar, off the south-eastern coast of Africa. These species bring high prices on the black market. A Komodo dragon, tuatara, or ploughshare tortoise can each fetch about $30,000 in the illegal trade.

The species traded by Wong and others investigated by the Service also included such rarities as the Chinese alligator (which inhabits the lower course of the Yangtze River); Gray's monitor (a lizard native to two islands of the Philippines); the false gavial (a crocodilian whose range is restricted to parts of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and southern Thailand along the Perak River); and two other reptiles found only on Madagascar (the radiated tortoise and the spider tortoise). Only the Gray’s monitor and spider tortoise can be legally traded, but such commerce requires a CITES export permit from government authorities in the Philippines and Madagascar. Prices in the illegal trade can be approximately $15,000 for a Chinese alligator, $8,000 for a Gray's monitor, and $5,000 for an adult radiated tortoise or a false gavial. Spider tortoises sell for about $2,000.

Wildlife smuggled in the case also included Burmese star tortoises, Indian star tortoises, Boelen's pythons, Timor pythons, green tree pythons, Fly River turtles, and Bengal monitor lizards. ‘Stealing the world's natural treasures takes a toll that cannot be measured in dollars. It robs countries of their natural heritage, disrupts ecosystems, and short-changes future generations,’ Clark said.

This week's arrests shut down one conduit for the illegal reptile trade between Asia and North America. Operation Chameleon’s wider probe of that trade had already broken up a major smuggling ring that was funnelling species from Madagascar and other countries to Germany and then on to markets in the United States and Canada. Work on that aspect of the case yielded charges against 18 people here and abroad.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state wildlife agencies.


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