ALERT: South Carolina tegu ban - Jan 17, 2021

UPDATE 2/18/21: The SCDNR Board just voted in favor of the tegu ban at their Board meeting. This new regulation must still go through the legislature before it would be effective. We will have more details when available.
UPDATE 2/4/21: The comment deadline is Feb. 11 at 5:00 PM.

The public hearing on this matter just ended. If you were disconnected during the meeting and unable to speak, then email the Board ASAP at [email protected]. Let them know there were problems with the conference line and you were repeatedly disconnected. Be sure to let them know you wanted to speak but were not given the opportunity due to technical issues with the line. Also, be sure to request acknowledgment that your email was received and the problem will be documented in the record. Do not include your additional comments in this email. Send those comments by Feb. 11 separately.

The SCDNR Board will continue the discussion at its Feb. 18 meeting. Comments can be submitted until Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 5:00 pm to the email address [email protected], and those will be included in the record.


The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) has proposed a ban on the species Salvator merianae. This includes: the Argentine Black and White tegu, the Blue tegu, and any Salvator merianae hybrid with another tegu species. This species would be listed as Restricted Nonnative Wildlife. This does not include any other tegu species.
The regulation will include restrictions on possession, sale, offer for sale, transfer of possession, import, release, reproduction, and escape of designated species and associated permitting.

Specifically, the listing:

Creates a ban on Salvator merianae with very limited provisions.
Allows permits (grandfathering) for current tegu owners. (NOTE: The permit is free but aspects of the permit will cost money.)
Establishes a 120-day registration period for current owners (grandfather period).
Requires tegus to be microchipped (PIT tagged).
Bans all breeding (no grandfather breeding permits for current breeders) even if tegus would be sold out-of-state.
Requires reporting of escapes and missing tegus.
Sets caging requirements.
Sets that permits are void upon the death of registered tegus.
Bans importation and sales of tegus.
Comments may be directed to the Board at [email protected] by Feb. 11 at 5:00 PM EST.

Read the SCDNR proposal at https://usark.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/SC-tegu-ban-2021.pdf.
Read the proposed regulation text at the bottom of this alert.
Talking Points
These can be used in your comments. Please edit and personalize.
If SCDNR must regulate tegus, there must be a common-sense approach allowing responsible keepers and breeders continued trade activities.
I request a public hearing on this matter as provided under SC Code.
Reptile enthusiasts want to protect our State’s environment while working with SCDNR on non-native species issues to protect our rights.
Tegus can be bred in South Carolina while still protecting the State’s environment.
Responsible herpetoculturists can certainly keep this species without harming South Carolina’s wildlife and environment.
Irresponsible persons should be punished but a ban that does not consider current tegu breeders is overreaching and unjust.
Responsible herpetoculturists want to address problems but SCDNR should realize that we responsible keepers are not the problem.
A ban without common-sense exemptions and permits will create additional issues, such as creating an underground black market or causing additional releases.
Current, responsible breeders should be allowed to continue if they can meet caging requirements. If not, SCDNR should pay restitution for lost revenue and investments.
Sample letter

SCDNR Board,

I write today as a South Carolina resident opposing the proposed ban listing the species Salvator merianae, known as tegus, as a Restricted Nonnative Wildlife species under Chapter 123 of SCDNR Code. Let me be clear, I fully support protecting our South Carolina natural resources and wildlife. This can easily be accomplished through sensible regulation. Unfortunately, I do not feel this is a sensible proposal. There is currently no evidence of tegus breeding or surviving the climate long-term in this state. As a responsible reptile keeper, I am for regulations that make sense and protect our environment without jeopardizing our ownership rights as citizens of this state.

Responsible herpetoculturists have never been the problem in this state. Through PIT tagging and permitting you have created more responsibility and liability on the owner of the animal. Therefore, there is no reason to stop the ownership, trade, and commercialization of this species. If an animal is released or has escaped, you now have an individual on record to hold responsible and penalize. This will hold the negligent owners accountable without punishing the responsible ones. But unfortunately, under this current proposal, all owners are punished. This ban will cause more harm than good. For example, some will sell them illegally, which as a result, fuels a black-market underground trade.

Ultimately, it is not fair to completely end the trade of a species when there is an obvious solution. PIT tagging and permitting, while still allowing the trade of this animal, would fix the potential problem. Tegus are easily trapped so the odd escape or release, which will be curtailed or ended through common-sense ownership and sales regulation, does not pose a severe risk to our native fauna.

As the last point, while the current proposed language does consider those people currently keeping pet tegus and allows those animals to be grandfathered, it does nothing to consider current breeders and businesses. A business will have extensive losses if this passes without additional language. Since the new regulation provides for no restitution to businesses that will have substantial financial loss, I do not see how SCDNR can present this regulation without their consideration. Allowing a period for the sell-off of adult animals as their only option is not acceptable. Current businesses and breeders, which is only a small handful in our state, that can demonstrate their ability to prevent escape should be allowed to be grandfathered, also. If not, this is a rather unjust and unfair regulation.

I understand regulations and standards need to be put in place, but an overnight ban on trade is completely unjust. I am asking you to work with us responsible herpetoculturists to come up with a better solution to this proposed regulation. We are willing to work with you and make sensible regulations. Thank you for taking the time to read this email and I look forward to speaking with you further. Have a good day.

Thank you,

YOUR NAME

Proposed Regulation Text

ARTICLE 5

Non-Game and Endangered Species

123-152. Regulations for Nonnative Wildlife.

The Department has determined that the species designated as Restricted Nonnative Wildlife have the potential to become established in this State in sufficient numbers so as to become a nuisance and pose a demonstrable deleterious and widespread threat to wildlife, agriculture, or human health and safety. As used in this regulation, Restricted Nonnative Wildlife and the associated Listing Date are:
Black and White Tegu (Salvator merianae and, as used in this regulation, their hybrids) (listing date:[effective date of regulation])
Unless otherwise authorized by the Department, no person, firm, corporation, partnership, association, or any other entity shall possess, sell, offer for sale, transfer possession of, import, bring, release, reproduce, allow to escape, or cause to be brought or imported into the State of South Carolina any Restricted Nonnative Wildlife. Pursuant to the Department’s authority to regulate nonnative wildlife under S.C. Code Section 50-15-55, the provisions of S.C. Code Section 50-16-60 do not apply to Restricted Nonnative Wildlife.
The Department may issue a permit for the possession, import, release, reproduction, and transfer of Restricted Nonnative Wildlife for scientific and other special purposes at its discretion, provided that any such permit shall be conditioned to minimize risks of the hazardous exposure, release and proliferation of the Restricted Nonnative Wildlife.
Additional provisions for specific Restricted Nonnative Wildlife
Black and White Tegu
A person, firm, corporation, partnership, association, or any other entity possessing a Black and White Tegu has 120 days from the listing date, the Registration Period, to register the total number of Black and White Tegu in their possession with the Department and obtain a permit, as conditioned herein, in order to retain the registered animals. During the Registration Period, Black and White Tegus may be possessed, bought, sold, or transferred but may not be imported, brought, released, reproduced, or allowed to escape in South Carolina.
All Black and White Tegus must be microchipped with a unique identification number, at the owner’s expense. The unique identification number must be supplied to the Department at the time of registration and to receive a permit.
iii. Permits for registered animals are valid for three years and must be renewed within 30 days of expiration. After the Registration Period, no Black and White Tegu may be possessed without a permit issued by the Department. Permits may not be transferred. If Black and White Tegus are removed from South Carolina, the permit becomes void and must be surrendered to the Department within five days

Reproduction of permitted Black and White Tegus is not allowed.
Black and White Tegus must be kept indoors in escape proof enclosures, or outdoors in locked enclosures with primary and secondary containment barriers, each sufficient to prevent escape.
Escaped or missing Black and White Tegus must be reported to the Department within 24 hours.
vii. Upon death of the Black and White Tegu, possession permits become void and must be surrendered to the Department within five days.

Failure to comply with permit terms and conditions is a violation of these regulations. Violations of these regulations are subject to the penalties and enforcement provisions of S.C. Code Section 50-15-80.

https://usark.org/2021-sc-tegu/