Herp Hype

PIJAC is sponsoring a symposium to promote continued conversation within the herptile community.



Next month, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) is sponsoring a symposium for those who appreciate reptiles and amphibians in all their diversity—whether in captivity as pets or in their natural habitats throughout the world. This convocation, “Issues in Reptile and Amphibian Conservation and Culture,” aims to promote ongoing conversation within the herp community, which includes breeders and dealers who produce animals for the pet industry, government agencies charged with the regulation of native and exotic species, and researchers documenting the status of populations in the U.S. and abroad. Scheduled for Oct. 31 to Nov. 1, the event will be held at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service offices in Riverdale, Md.


The Symposium is the creation of PIJAC’s Herp Subcommittee, a group of dedicated industry folks representing breeders, animal wholesalers, equipment manufacturers, reptile show promoters and individual keepers. Beyond their business interests in amphibians and reptiles as companion animals, subcommittee members are passionate about the long-term future of wild herps.


“We think there are incredibly important issues to discuss at the Symposium,” says John Mack, subcommittee chair. “These topics impact our management of reptiles and amphibians in the wild, as pets, and as a complement to our natural resources. As reptile ownership continues to gain popularity, it is even more important to discuss responsible pet ownership, conservation and the laws associated with these issues. We hope that this event will further the conversation.”


This year’s event builds upon two previous meetings—in 2012 and 2014—that were well attended by prominent industry leaders, as well as federal, state and local government; conservation organizations; and the academic community. The 2018 Symposium will feature presentations on several key topics of concern to the herp community:

• International, national and state regulations

• Imperiled species

• Invasive species

• Amphibian and reptile diseases

• Zoonotic disease transmission

• Conservation of native herp species

• Issues confronting the private keeper


On the international front, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be on hand to discuss the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and its role in the protection of imperiled species. They will be joined in this session by industry presentations on domestic and captive breeding programs and the importance of captive assurance colonies for species at risk.


The recent court ruling on the Lacey Act, limiting federal authority in regulating interstate shipments of injurious wildlife, has significantly re-shaped government invasive species programs. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be updating the herp community on scientific management and law enforcement in its Injurious Wildlife program. There will be an accompanying presentation from the perspective of state wildlife agencies in light of the ruling. Phil Goss of the United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK), the plaintiff in the Lacey Act legal proceedings, will offer a view on behalf of herp pet owners.


Invasive species continue to be a prominent conservation issue. PIJAC’s commitment to environmental stewardship includes sponsorship of Habitattitude, a national campaign to prevent the release of exotic pets and plants. Accompanying a description of industry efforts to thwart invasive species, key government presenters include the National Invasive Species Council, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a state conservation agency.


Perhaps no issue has caused more concern in the conservation community than the amphibian fungal diseases, B-d and Bsal, which have caused serious declines in amphibian populations worldwide. In response to potential risks from imported salamanders, PIJAC recommended a voluntary moratorium on the importation of certain salamanders that might be infected. Several presentations will describe new information from research on wild amphibians in the U.S. and abroad, along with their implications for the trade in these species.


In the spirit of promoting collaboration among industry, government and conservation interests, a session on public/private ventures will have presentations from a private lands manager, a herp NGO and the zoo community. The Symposium will close with four speakers addressing the state of private reptile ownership, including the contributions of expos and conferences, herp societies and reptile rescue organizations.


PIJAC will host a reception for attendees on the evening of Oct. 31. Attendance may be limited; to register for the conference, go to herpsymposium.com. You can learn more about the event, watch for newly-announced speakers and discussion topics, and get information about the location and nearby hotel options. We hope you’ll join us, and your fellow enthusiasts and professionals, at this important event for the entire herp community. PB


Scott Hardin is science advisor, exotic and invasive species, and Joshua Jones is Deputy Director of Government Affairs for the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC).


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