Injurious Wildlife Species: Listing Salamanders Due to Risk of Salamander Chytrid Fungus

Salamanders are under threat from a deadly fungus called Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans or Bsal, which has already caused severe die-offs in salamander populations in Europe. To help protect salamanders in North America from this threat, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service has prohibited the importation of salamanders into the United States and interstate transportation between the States. This will help prevent infected animals from Europe or Asia entering the U.S, which is home to a plethora of endemic salamander species.

The U.S Fish and Wildlife service has stated that there are opportunities to obtain salamanders via permits for zoological, educational, or scientific purposes. Therefore legitimate conservation efforts will still have the opportunity to lawfully obtain salamanders if required.

The threat from the illegal trade of salamanders on the black market has been greatly exaggerated by exotic animal dealers in an effort to try and reverse the ban and stop similar efforts in the future. In truth, salamanders seem to be far less popular in the exotic pet trade then snakes, lizards, or turtles. This is evident by the relative low number of salamander species (in comparison to most other herptiles) that are widely available from private breeders/dealers or in the pet trade. Furthermore, few salamanders command high prices in the pet trade compared to other herptiles. As such collectors would not have the same monetary incentives to illegally obtain and trade these animals as there would be for other exotics.

A few enthusiastic keepers may try to collect their own, but again this would most likely be minimal.

Although a small amount of illegal trade cannot be stopped, the benefits outweigh the costs, and this ban is an important step to help protect and conserve salamanders.

European Salamander Ban

A similar ban, to stop Asian species from being imported, is being encouraged in Europe. In February a letter sent to the European commission by 17 scientists and 27 nature organisations called for the immediate implementation of this recommendation and for the listing of Bsal as a pathogen of Union concern under the animal health legislation.

“We are asking for trade bans as a preventative measure because there are clear signs that this disease is imported from Asia,” said Anke Geeraerts, a spokeswoman for the Natuurpunt conservation group.