The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to list the Egyptian tortoise ( Testudo kleinmanni) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Read the federal register posting at Federal Register :: Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Threatened Species Status With Section 4(d) Rule for Egyptian Tortoise. To submit a comment, just click “SUBMIT A FORMAL COMMENT” at the top of that federal register page. You can copy/paste our sample message (but please edit/personalize, if possible) or attach your comment as a Word or PDF via the “Add a file” button. The comment deadline is January 10, 2022. We have provided Talking Points and sample messaging below.
Like many aspects of our world today, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) must evolve and see change. Enacted in 1973, ESA is now outdated and extremely flawed. While well-intended in 1973, the regulation of nonnative species through ESA just does not work (especially since FWS has no authority to regulate the wildlife in foreign countries and profiteering “enviro” groups now manipulate ESA for fraudulent fundraising, thus costing the Government many millions of dollars which could instead be used for legitimate conservation).
In fact, the listing of nonnative species under the ESA is not just redundant and pointless, the ESA is actually harmful to conservation efforts for nonnative species. Through modern, multifaceted methodologies such as conservation through education, utilization of captive populations, and consideration of genetic diversity, we can do better than the archaic 1973 law. Currently, ESA places severe restrictions on interstate movement and effectively creates detrimental genetic islands limited to populations within states. The ESA does nothing to conserve or protect the habitat for nonnative species, merely giving lip service to conservation while hindering real conservation and education efforts.
For many years now, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has been the global organization administering international trade and movement of endangered and threatened species. CITES is now an incredibly robust worldwide society with nearly 200 member countries.
For many reasons, ESA should not include nonnative species, but should focus entirely on native species. America must more efficiently utilize and protect the resources we have. We must tighten the reins and terminate wasteful expenditures of our money and energy. Regarding this issue, that means turning ESA’s focus solely to native species, while collaborating with CITES for nonnative species matters.
The above is a summary of problems with listing nonnative species under ESA. Since FWS has indicated its intention to list the Egyptian tortoise as threatened, we tailored our Talking Points and sample messaging below to that fact. However, feel free to use some of the above text in your comments.
These can be included in comments. Please edit, if possible.
- The breeding these tortoises by private keepers enhances conservation of endangered species by allowing for improved genetic diversity among captive populations rather than being isolated by arbitrary geographic lines;
- Private breeders, in addition to zoos, are successfully breeding ESA-listed species, and allowing private breeders to breed and sell Egyptian tortoises, including across state lines, would allow for far greater success of breeding programs;
- Allowing captive propagation by private keepers aids conservation by providing an essential understanding of husbandry and biology of endangered species;
- Providing a special 4(d) rule that allows for uncomplicated interstate sales (not the unreasonable and nearly unattainable Captive Bred Wildlife permit), nonnative Egyptian tortoise will greatly aid conservation. This would make it possible to keep increasing the global population of this tortoise rather than actually harming conservation by not allowing interstate sales by private keepers, who can produce far more tortoises than zoos if they are allowed to easily find homes for the offspring they produce;
- ESA has been successful for recovery of native species, not nonnative species;
- A proper 4(d) rule would maintain the current commerce and economic opportunity through deregulation of interstate movement;
- Some private keepers have been breeding the Egyptian tortoise for many years, and some over a decade. These breeders sell most of their offspring across state lines. Without a suitable 4(d) rule and threatened listing, breeders will not be able to recoup the costs of maintaining and breeding their tortoises. They also would not be able to find buyers for all of their offspring in their home states.
- Not allowing a common-sense 4(d) rule will bottleneck the genetics of this species within each state. It actually would harm conservation to not consider private breeding and sales of this species.
- Unlike most imperiled species, the Egyptian tortoise benefits from robust captive propagation efforts.
- Since FWS has stopped issuing CBW permits to private breeders and these permits are not attainable by pet owners, there must be exceptions so breeding and interstate sales are not limited to AZA facilities in order to increase the global population and conservation of this species.
- The U.S. trade is based solely upon animals bred and born domestically. These offspring and interstate sales have no negative impact upon wild populations. However, they do have a positive impact on the conservation of this species.
- This species is already listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora as an Appendix I CITES species. This means that international trade in Egyptian tortoises is permitted only in exceptional circumstances and also allows FWS to enforce CITES regulations. Thus, FWS can already crackdown on those conducting illegal activity since the U.S. is a CITES member.
Sample Comment (copy/paste or please edit, if possible)
If the Service lists the Egyptian tortoise as threatened, it should propose a special 4(d) rule that exempts activities associated with captive propagation and interstate sales of the species within the U.S. A common-sense 4(d) rule exemption would facilitate securing the future of the captive assurance colonies in the country. Unlike most imperiled species, the Egyptian tortoise benefits from robust captive propagation efforts, and tortoises under the care of private keepers produce the majority of those offspring that increase the global population. While the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) has a studbook and program for this species, zoos can only support a very limited number of each species they hold. Exponentially more animals, especially a small species like the Egyptian tortoise, can be easily kept by private parties. Private keepers already produce many times more Egyptian tortoises than AZA facilities. There is ample precedence for granting such an exemption for the Egyptian tortoise. The Service has granted exemptions for captive propagation and interstate commerce of more than a dozen other species.
I believe that a special rule for the Egyptian tortoise is necessary and advisable for the conservation of the species. Trade and confiscation data indicate the complete absence of imports of Egyptian tortoises into the U.S. since the mid-1990s. There is no information to suggest that interstate commerce activities are associated with threats to the tortoise, nor will interstate trade of animals bred under human care negatively affect any efforts aimed at the recovery of wild populations of the species. To the contrary, an exemption will continue to allow U.S. zoos, private breeders, and institutions to maintain the current captive assurance colonies by assuring minimally restricted interstate transportation and sales to other assurance colonies and breeders. This will provide a crucial source of genetic diversity for future captive breeding and reintroduction efforts.
This species is already listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora as an Appendix I CITES species. This means that international trade in Egyptian tortoises is permitted only in exceptional circumstances and also allows FWS to enforce CITES regulations. Thus, FWS can already crackdown on those conducting illegal activity since the U.S. is a CITES member. FWS should focus its resources on illegal smuggling activities rather than making it impossible for U.S. breeders to sell their offspring across state lines.
Thank you for your time and consideration regarding my comment. I strongly support the conservation of all reptiles and believe that responsible captive propagation can further this goal by educating the public about wildlife, enhancing captive assurance colonies, and increasing the global population of this incredible species. Have a good day.