Born Free USA Blog
by Will Travers,
Chief Executive Officer
What can you say about a big-hearted bloke who has rescued dolphins, tigers, elephants and more and whose parents once helped a lion cub from a department store by caring for him in their backyard and engineering his rightful return to Africa? You can safely say that he's got great animal instincts! In 1984, Will Travers joined his parents — "Born Free" film stars Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers — to form what became The Born Free Foundation. With knowledge, passion and compassion dripping from his every word, Will's blogs are sure to make you embrace our crusade to Keep Wildlife in the Wild ®.
Born Free USA was disappointed by the California Fish and Game Commission's decision to retract a ban on the issuance of import permits for live non-native turtles and frogs for human consumption. We saw the ban as an important step forward in protecting our native wildlife.
However, from the outset of this issue, Born Free USA has maintained that the most-effective and fair way to address the threats posed by the import of non-native amphibian species would be to add non-native turtles and frogs to the prohibitive species list, with a grandfather clause allowing those who currently possess such species to keep those animals. This approach would address the risks posed by the pet trade as well as the import of amphibians for human consumption.
We stand by that position and hope that the commission will stand by its responsibility to safeguard our natural resources and will move forward in addressing this critical issue.
At the last commission meeting it was suggested by both the department director and deputy director that the issue of non-native turtle and frogs importation was a relatively low priority and of little environmental concern. In fact, they asserted that there is no scientific evidence that demonstrates the practice is a threat.
Actually, a 2009 study published in the Journal of Biological Conservation seems to contradict their assertion. The study looked specifically at imports of live amphibians imported into New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Key findings include:
- Two diseases (Chytridiomycosis — “chytrid fungus” — and ranaviral disease) were found in imported market frogs in all three cities in all seasons.
- The amphibian trade can contribute to introductions of these two pathogens into new regions.
- On average 5 million individual amphibians per year are imported into the three cities.
Amphibian populations and species are declining or disappearing from many regions throughout the world. Infectious disease is considered a primary contributing factor. The devastating impacts of amphibian chytrid fungus are well documented in scientific literature. The spread of amphibian diseases has been linked to the import and spread of non-native amphibians. Even where non-native amphibians exist in the wild, the continued import, transport and intentional or unintentional release of infected amphibians can exacerbate the spread of disease.
It is clear that the importation and introduction of live amphibians infected with chytrid fungus pose dire threats to natural ecosystems and native wildlife.
We are urging the commission to reconsider its decision.