12/10/09 PART 1

PR: Python Ban Moves Forward Despite Questionable Science

December 10, 2009 Wilmington, NC- Driven by powerful special interests and much media sensation S. 373 aka ‘The Python Ban’ is likely to move forward despite lack of scientific justification. Pushed by Sponsor Senator Bill Nelson and the Humane Society of the United States S. 373 could devastate the trade in high quality captive bred reptiles in the United States.

Today the Senate Committee on the Environment & Public Works (EPW) will hold a business meeting on S. 373. The Committee Chair is Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and the Ranking Member is Senator James Inhofe (R-OK). The committee will hold a mark up session where they will consider S. 373, to amend title 18, United States Code, to add constrictor snakes of the species Python genera to the Injurious Wildlife list of the Lacey Act. The committee is expected to amend the bill to include the 9 snakes listed on a recent controversial report by the US Geological Survey (USGS). All tolled the bill could stop the import, export and interstate transport of as many as 45 species of Boas and Pythons.

The USGS report being used to justify these extreme measures has been called into question by a group of independent scientists in a letter to the EPW Committee on November 24, 2009. The letter characterized the USGS report as “not a bona-fide scientific paper”. The US Department of the Interior (DOI) and the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) stand by the report and have recommended to the committee that all 9 snakes reviewed should be included by amendment to S. 373. The independent scientists, who include professors from University of Florida, Arizona State University, Texas A&M and The National Geographic Society, go further to state, “this document is not suitable as the basis for legislative or regulatory policies, as its content is not based on best science practices”

The United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK) made an agreement in principle with Senator Bill Nelson’s office to limit the damage to a 3 billion dollar a year trade in these reptiles, but was informed yesterday that the agreement would not be honored. Senator Nelson has justified his position based on the recommendations made in regards to the USGS report by USFWS and DOI. Andrew Wyatt, president of USARK, commented that “it is a real shame that Senator Nelson has changed his position on this issue”. If the bill passes approximately 4 million boas and pythons already in captivity would be rendered valueless overnight with no provisions for disposition or compensation. Wyatt added, “it could create a situation where millions of people will be in possession of injurious wildlife. It is ludicrous to put so many law abiding citizens in that position and diminish the Lacey Act for the sake of political expediency.”

Passage of S. 373 would result in the loss of thousands of American jobs bankrupting an entire industry. Without strong evidence to support the injurious wildlife listing, USARK calls on the Senate EPW Committee to give an unfavorable rating to S. 373.

Contact:

Andrew Wyatt

president@usark.org