Monday, May 11, 2009

Week of May 11, 2009

U.S. wildlife trade poorly regulated, threatening human health and ecosystems, study finds

ScienceDaily (May 11, 2009)
— Wildlife imports into the United States are fragmented and insufficiently coordinated, failing to accurately list more than four in five species entering the country, a team of scientists has found. The effect, the scientists write in the journal Science, May 1, is that a range of diseases is introduced into the United States, potentially decimating species, devastating ecosystems and threatening food supply chains and human health.

geckoThe research by Brown University, Wildlife Trust, Pacific Lutheran University, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Global Invasive Species Programme comes as Congress begins deliberating the Nonnative Wildlife Invasion Prevention Act (HR 669), which would tighten regulations on wildlife imports. At a hearing last week before the House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife, wildlife experts discussed how nonnative species and plants can disrupt ecosystems. One case mentioned at the hearing involves the Burmese python, originally imported as a pet that now infests the Florida Everglades.

The global wildlife trade generates hundreds of billions of dollars annually. The team analyzed Law Enforcement Management Information System (LEMIS) data gathered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from 2000 through 2006 and found the United States imported upward of 1.5 billion live wildlife animals. The vast majority of the imports were from wild populations in more than 190 countries around the world and were intended for commercial sale in the United States — primarily in the pet trade.

“That’s equivalent to every single person in the U.S. owning at least five pets,” said Katherine Smith, assistant research professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Brown University and a co-author on the paper.

“That’s over 200 million animals a year — unexpectedly high,” said Peter Daszak, president of Wildlife Trust and a co-author on the paper.

The team also found that more than 86 percent of the shipments were not classified to the level of species, despite federal guidelines that mandate species-level labeling. The lack of accurate reporting makes it impossible to fully assess the diversity of animals imported or calculate the risk of nonnative species or the diseases they may carry, the team wrote.

“Shipments are coming in labeled ‘live vertebrate’ or ‘fish,’” Daszak said. “If we don’t know what animals are coming in, how do we know which are going to become invasive species or carry diseases that could affect livestock, wildlife or ourselves?”

“The threat to public health is real. The majority of emerging diseases come from wildlife,” said Smith, who is also a senior consultant at Wildlife Trust. “Most of these imported animals originate in Southeast Asia — a region shown to be a hotspot for these emerging diseases.”

The team called for direct and immediate measures to decrease what it has termed “pathogen pollution” — the risks associated with poorly regulated wildlife trade. Specifically, the team recommended:

Requiring stricter record keeping and better risk analysis of animal imports;

  • Establishing third-party surveillance and testing for both known and unknown pathogens at points of export in foreign countries;
  • Educating individuals, importers, veterinarians and pet industry advocates to the dangers of diseases transmitted from wildlife to humans and domesticated animals.

The study was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Cestone Foundation, the Eppley Foundation, the New York Community Trust, The Rockefeller Foundation, the Smith Fellowship Program, the Switzer Foundation, and V. Kann Rasmussen Foundation.

Photo: Tokay gecko from Indonesia by Michael Yabsley/University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine .

Brown University (2009, May 11). U.S. Wildlife Trade Poorly Regulated, Threatening Food Supply Chains, Human Health, Ecosystems, Study Finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 11, 2009, from­ /releases/2009/04/090430144537.htm


Weeds of Wrath

24th Annual Symposium of the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council
May 26th to May 29th
Delray Beach, FL

The 2009 FLEPPC symposium promises to be another blockbuster meeting with the latest information on a variety of topics related to invasive species in Florida. This year’s keynote speaker is Dr. Joseph DiTomaso.

Here’s a preview of what you can look forward to at the Symposium:

Many presentations on the latest technology in invasive species control;
Information on new worrisome weeds to watch out for;
Updates on biological control research for Florida invasive plant species;
The latest on Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas (CWMAs) throughout Florida;
Hands-on workshops related to invasive plant control and monitoring;
Field trips to Yamato Scrub, Loxahatchee NWR, Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, and Delray Oaks Natural Area to evaluate invasive plant management programs, herbicide demonstration plots, and the use of GPS.

CEUs will be offered
…and much more.

Theme: This year’s theme is "The Weeds of Wrath," a reference to John Steinbeck's landmark novel, “The Grapes of Wrath,” which reminds us to continue our struggle to save Florida’s natural areas from pest plants, even during difficult economic times. As weed control budgets shrink and policy makers reconsider priorities, it is more imperative than ever to stay connected, cooperative, and supportive of one another. We hope to see you in Delray Beach.

Registration is still open: For those who have not yet registered--there's still time. Online registration is available at

The preliminary program for FLEPPC 2009 is now available at


Treating Watermilfoil in New York

TYRONE, NY - Biologists are back this week making sure an invasive weed does not make a comeback in two Schuyler County lakes.

On Monday biologists began spreading a herbicide to rid Waneta and Lamoka lakes of the invasive weed know as “Water-Mil-Foil.”

“Water-Mil-Foil” spreads on the surface of the lake just and blocks the sun from penetrating the natural plants below. Biologist said this herbicide only attacks the invasive weeds, not fish or lake plants.

Glenn Sullivan from Allied Biological said “It’s selective to broad leaf plants so that way the pond leaves will be untouched by the herbicide.”

County officials said for two-four weeks neighbors should not drink the lake water. Also, you should not use lake water to irrigate your vegetables or flowers for up to 120 days. Well water will not be affected.

This is the second year that biologist are treating Waneta and Lamoka lakes. County officials said the total price tag of the project is close to a half-million dollars. That money is coming from state grants and taxpayers.

This is the last major treatment for the lakes. Property owners will be updated about the results of water tests taken from the lakes over the next two to four weeks.



Six Delaware Ponds to Be Treated for Aquatic Weeds

During the next three weeks, weather permitting, the DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife will be treating six downstate ponds for aquatic nuisance weeds that, left unchecked, can choke the waters, crowd out other, more beneficial plant species and prevent fishing and boating access.

the target aquatic species is hydrilla, a non-native plant that likely entered the state through the aquarium trade. The Division will apply Sonar, an EPA-registered and approved aquatic herbicide containing fluridone. Sonar has been used in Delaware since the 1980s and has been proven safe and effective for controlling hydrilla.

The ponds to be treated are, in Kent County: Garrisons Lake near Smyrna and Tub Mill Pond near Milford; and in Sussex County: Millsboro Pond; and Chipmans Pond, Tussock Pond and Horseys Pond near Laurel. [...]



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