The Florida Wildlife Agency is expected to drop a commercial turtle farming proposal

Conservationists are divided over a new proposal that would legalize the captive commercial breeding of a major species in Florida. The state’s wildlife agency had been expected to vote against the plan next week over concerns it would make the diamond-back turtle more attractive to poachers.

The American Association of Reptile Keepers of Florida The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FFC) wantsFWC) to approve captive breeding to reduce the novelty associated with the species’ current population levels and better prepare for imminent habitat loss due to climate change, spokesperson Daniel Parker He said. The group represents pet and hobbyist stores.

The Florida coast includes five of the seven subspecies of Diamondback terrapin. None of them are endangered, but they are all classified as the species with the greatest need for conservation, according to the state agency. Three of the species are exclusive to the state.

The proposal was not expected to last. a Staff Report From the Wildlife Commission, which will be presented during the commission’s meeting on Wednesday, concluded that commercialization will provide uncertain benefits while increasing the risk of harm to species, specifically poaching, trafficking and money laundering.

Committee experts concluded that captive breeding will lead to an increase in illegal collection and demand, the spokeswoman said Lisa Thompson He said.

Parker, who owns under educational license four Diamondback terrapins — Marshmallow, Bug, Mama Crusher, and Sweetie — disagreed.

When animals are tightly regulated, he said, prices go up. Decorative diamond terrapins, a state-specific species, fetched more than $1,400 each in 2015, according to a price analysis provided to the state agency by Florida turtle breeders.

“Like an illegal drug dealer,” Parker wrote, “the hunter catalyzes profits by selling a product with an artificially inflated value.”

He said: “Unfortunately with the FWC, there is an ideology against keeping animals in captivity. I think this is more of an animal rights agenda than a protection agenda. It should be keeping the population sustainable.”

Thompson, a spokeswoman for the agency, said public reactions have been mixed. Committee experts recommended that the current rules remain unchanged.

Miami is the third busiest US port for the export of turtles, according to data from US Fish and Wildlife Servicewith an estimated half a million turtles shipped annually.

Breeding in captivity — which was last allowed in Florida in 2006 — would make terrapins more accessible, and deter poaching, which is just one threat to the species, Parker said.

The Wildlife Commission approved rules to improve the management of wild diamond terrapins in December 2021 as the population declines due to habitat loss, animal trade and the use of food and medicine overseas.

He said Terrapins are not usually hunted as pets Halle Risleywho works for Gator City Reptiles in Gainesville, but private hobbyists have been an advocate for captive rebreeding since the original 2006 ban.

Risley said that moving an animal from its original environment into captivity is difficult. If they are born in captivity, they can have fewer health and behavioral problems. It also offers more opportunities to understand the habits of the species: a key task in captive breeding, she said.

The proposed breeding program could also allow confiscated terrapins to be placed by law enforcement with breeders licensed by the Wildlife Agency. Parker said licensing fees could offset administrative costs and fund conservation efforts similar to current operations for venomous reptiles.

The wildlife agency had accepted public comments during its meeting on Wednesday. Comments submitted in advance must be submitted no later than 5pm on Friday.

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This story was produced by Fresh Take Florida, a news service affiliated with the University of Florida’s School of Journalism and Communications. The reporter can be reached at [email protected]. You can donate to support our students over here.


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