Identification of CITES-listed tarantulas

Vanessa

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Montreal, 14 February 2019—Today, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) is releasing the first-ever guide to identify tarantulas in North America that are listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The guide was designed to help customs and law enforcement officers in Canada, Mexico and the United States recognize tarantulas and help ensure their legal, sustainable and traceable trade across the continent. The trade of species—animals, plants and wood—as pets and products in North America is a multi-billion-dollar industry that contributes significantly to community development and economic growth. However, the growing demand for these species can lead to their illegal harvesting and trade and threatens wildlife species and their habitats.

“Today marks a turning point in North American tarantula conservation,” says Hesiquio Benítez-Díaz, Mexico’s CITES Scientific Authority and General Director of International Cooperation and National Implementation at the National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (Conabio). We have a huge opportunity to replace illegal tarantula trade with a legal and sustainable market that provides benefits to local communities where tarantulas live.”

See full article HERE
 

Justin H

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Honestly, what a mess...

Why don't they just ban the export of endemic species from Mexico, or any organism without the proper paperwork?

Who is really going to use this guide? Definitely not the US or Mexican customs officers I've dealt with. From what I understand, even the most trained taxonomists have trouble differentiating between the species.

The actual guide is available online, paragraphs similar to this are listed after almost every species:

"Similar CITES-listed species: Brachypelma epicureanum, B. kahlenbergi, B. sabulosum Brachypelma epicureanum, B. kahlenbergi, B. sabulosum and B. vagans look almost identical to the naked eye. Although there are morphological differences between the species, they tend to be slight and somewhat inconsistent. Identification of specimens of these species is best confirmed through DNA analysis."​

The guide instructs to obtain DNA samples by forcing the tarantula to amputate its own leg (just an excerpt):

"Hold the base of the leg III femur with forceps, near where it joins with the trochanter, and squeeze firmly but gently until the leg is voluntary released by the spider. It may be helpful to use a sponge or pad of tissue paper on top of the spider to secure it during the process."​

CITES works in other countries and requires CB permits to own endangered species. The US needs to adopt a similar policy and regulate the exotic pet trade. I don't think teaching customs officers how to identify a B. vagans is really going to help anything... it's frustrating to see them put their resources into a non-solution like this. To say that "today marks a turning point in North American conservation" is complete hyperbole (quote from Mexico's director of CITES).
 

Vanessa

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I don't think that anyone is expecting any customs official to be able to identify each Brachypelma/Aphonopelma/Sericopelma species, but they are very unique looking groups of tarantulas.
I was in a position where I was at a reptile expo and our Fish and Wildlife officers showed up (for an unrelated endangered turtle incident) and the officer who came over to the Tangled in Webs table immediately honed in the Brachypelma hamorii. While he probably couldn't recognize the others on sight, he certainly knew that was a regulated species. Since they were locally bred, there was no problem with TiW having them, but to say that a document like this isn't useful at all is not correct.
There are certain distinct characteristics that can be easily identified with these species and they don't have to be able to correctly identify each down to the specific species in order to hold packages for further investigation. I think that, having officials be able to even recognize the genus, would be enough of a deterrent for most people considering illegal import/export of these species.
 

The Seraph

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Honestly, what a mess...

Why don't they just ban the export of endemic species from Mexico, or any organism without the proper paperwork?

Who is really going to use this guide? Definitely not the US or Mexican customs officers I've dealt with. From what I understand, even the most trained taxonomists have trouble differentiating between the species.

The actual guide is available online, paragraphs similar to this are listed after almost every species:

"Similar CITES-listed species: Brachypelma epicureanum, B. kahlenbergi, B. sabulosum Brachypelma epicureanum, B. kahlenbergi, B. sabulosum and B. vagans look almost identical to the naked eye. Although there are morphological differences between the species, they tend to be slight and somewhat inconsistent. Identification of specimens of these species is best confirmed through DNA analysis."​

The guide instructs to obtain DNA samples by forcing the tarantula to amputate its own leg (just an excerpt):

"Hold the base of the leg III femur with forceps, near where it joins with the trochanter, and squeeze firmly but gently until the leg is voluntary released by the spider. It may be helpful to use a sponge or pad of tissue paper on top of the spider to secure it during the process."​

CITES works in other countries and requires CB permits to own endangered species. The US needs to adopt a similar policy and regulate the exotic pet trade. I don't think teaching customs officers how to identify a B. vagans is really going to help anything... it's frustrating to see them put their resources into a non-solution like this. To say that "today marks a turning point in North American conservation" is complete hyperbole (quote from Mexico's director of CITES).
The problem with that is that more often than not they will ban captive bred specimens as well and ban the breeding of captive breds so that way they will not have to go through the headache of having to track down and differentiate between specimens were born in captivity and specimens were wild caught. This might lead to people trying to find other sources for tarantulas, such as the wild.
 

Justin H

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Thanks for the input, you guys!

You're probably right, Vanessa, education is not useless, and the general awareness raised by publications like these are a good thing. The fact that they're starting to care about tarantulas at all is really cool. I was feeling passionate and wrote some stupid stuff, sorry. I do wish that more was being done about the smuggling of exotic species.

And Seraph, I'd like to believe the US could effectively regulate the hobby without ruining the availability of species too much. But who really knows? I understand where you're coming from though; I really hope we don't see something like that happen, but it's feasible.
 

Vanessa

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The problem with that is that more often than not they will ban captive bred specimens as well and ban the breeding of captive breds so that way they will not have to go through the headache of having to track down and differentiate between specimens were born in captivity and specimens were wild caught. This might lead to people trying to find other sources for tarantulas, such as the wild.
Nobody is banning the breeding of these species. All of them could have been easily obtained prior to being CITES listed and nobody is going to be able to prove otherwise.
These documents are geared specifically to the import/export scenario. Breed them all you want, but make sure that you have your CITES paperwork in order before trying to ship them internationally (for Canadians), or over state/country lines (for those in the United States). Everyone else make sure that you know your country's CITES guidelines before shipping them.
Importing and exporting hasn't been banned either, nowhere is it saying anything about banning them, you just need to have CITES paperwork proving that they were not taken out of the wild and were captive bred.
Why is everyone going on about banning when this is not doing anything to ban any species? The only thing this is doing is preventing people from poaching them and exporting them out of Mexico. Apply for CITES paperwork if you want to ship them and carry on.
 

The Seraph

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Nobody is banning the breeding of these species. All of them could have been easily obtained prior to being CITES listed and nobody is going to be able to prove otherwise.
These documents are geared specifically to the import/export scenario. Breed them all you want, but make sure that you have your CITES paperwork in order before trying to ship them internationally (for Canadians), or over state/country lines (for those in the United States). Everyone else make sure that you know your country's CITES guidelines before shipping them.
Importing and exporting hasn't been banned either, nowhere is it saying anything about banning them, you just need to have CITES paperwork proving that they were not taken out of the wild and were captive bred.
Why is everyone going on about banning when this is not doing anything to ban any species? The only thing this is doing is preventing people from poaching them and exporting them out of Mexico. Apply for CITES paperwork if you want to ship them and carry on.
I never said they were. I was only giving an example about what could possibly happen if lawmakers decided to put a ban on tarntulas, wild caught or not. I understand it was very extreme example but look what happened in Italy.
 

Chris LXXIX

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In Italy this is a reality since forever: everyone that wants to breed their owned CITES protected arachnids/CITES protected inverts needs to contact the Italian CITES authority and, surprise, without issues, they will follow the breeder from the beginning to the ending part of that, so the sale/trade etc of the (say successful) mating.

Then, the breeder/seller, can legit trade/sell to other Italians the CITES protected arachnids/inverts/animals, giving official signed papers, in Expo/s etc that states the legit CB nature of the specimens.

I have several CITES legal papers, as far as I know I'm the only one that, here in Arachnoboards, posted those:

Cites 2.jpg
 
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cold blood

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I understand it was very extreme example but look what happened in Italy.
Vanessa doesn't have to look all the way to Italy, Toronto has a ban, she's familiar with such things, I promise you...but that's not what this thread is about, leading to, or even eluding to...lol. This is about helping enforcement do their jobs better and protect the illegal importations. Its not something that should effect the non-smuggling side of the hobby.
 
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Chris LXXIX

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I understand it was very extreme example but look what happened in Italy.
Why? What happened to Italy, aside an epic win of the Italian Arachnid Society that, instead of sending emails (like happened for the U.S 'pokie' limitation) directly talked with the politicians and solved the issue?

Altough, yes, really 'Hot' venomous arachnids were sacrificed, but when 'you' deal with politicians, mark my words, a compromise has to be taken.
 

Odessa13

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It's a pity that there are no photos of morphological differences, for example, a photo of Sternum for Red abdomen Brachypelma and other groups.
In our country there is a very sad situation, with the hybridization of these groups, and to distinguish all these species from each other, we would take photos of the morphological differences - they would be very useful!
But in general ! The work helped a lot, you can already put some dots on some questions :)
 

Vanessa

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It's a pity that there are no photos of morphological differences, for example, a photo of Sternum for Red abdomen Brachypelma and other groups.
In our country there is a very sad situation, with the hybridization of these groups, and to distinguish all these species from each other, we would take photos of the morphological differences - they would be very useful!
But in general ! The work helped a lot, you can already put some dots on some questions :)
You might be able to find that information on the World Spider Catalog if you look up the original papers describing each species, or revisions to the species. Often there are photos/images included.
 

Odessa13

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You might be able to find that information on the World Spider Catalog if you look up the original papers describing each species, or revisions to the species. Often there are photos/images included.
I have been using the catalog for about 10 years now, and the original descriptions of the species, especially those that were made a long time ago, are already morally obsolete.
There are no normal photos, and most of the old descriptions of the morphological differences have one major drawback.
They were made without DNA analysis, without molecular analysis, only morphology, and such descriptions, in my opinion, are also outdated.
And in general, if they provided a photograph common for the red abdomen of the spiders, why not take a general photo to compare all the other parts of the body?) This would greatly facilitate their definition among themselves.
 
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