Posts Tagged ‘USFWS’

Anson Wong Released

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012


A Court of Appeals in Malaysia today released wildlife trafficker Anson Wong.  Wong had served 17.5 months of a five year prison sentence for smuggling boa constrictors.  You can read more here.

Wong’s five year sentence was a significant one for a wildlife trafficker anywhere in the world, and unprecedented in Malaysia.   The Appeals Court today ruled that the 5 year sentence did not fit the crime of boa constrictor smuggling, a defensible conclusion in the limited circumstances of this case.  

Ironically, the failure of Malaysia’s Wildlife Department ever to arrest Wong worked to his advantage:  “It is trite law that Wong’s plea of guilt is a mitigating factor. It is trite law that the fact Wong was the first offender is another mitigating factor,” the judge said.

Agents and prosecutors in US Fish & Wildlife Service’s Operation Chameleon would argue that Wong was hardly a “first offender.”   Instead, as Wong confessed in a US Court room, he smuggled critically endangered wildlife for decades. 

What did occur for the first time was that Wong was brought to justice in his own country.   This is a major advance.  It is the result of  good work by Malaysian citizens, national media, NGOs, legislators, prosecutors, and judges.  Every element of Malaysian society except Malaysia’s Wildlife Department worked hard for justice in this case.   The future is yet to reveal itself…

FORBIDDEN: US Bans Giant Python Trade

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Well, it finally happened. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has finally banned the importation and interstate transfer of giant pythons. This is a battle that has been fought for the past several years between leaders in the python and boa constrictor breeding and keeping world and government regulators.   The official issue at stake is the invasiveness of these animals and their environmental impact, but big snakes are so loaded politically and emotionally the battle has always been about about more than that.  It has been about whether average Americans should have giant constrictors in their homes.

As I’ve said from the beginning, it is greed pure and simple that prevented the reptile industry from regulating itself with regard to these giant snakes.  Any idiot can see that giant pythons are inappropriate to most buyers, esp. teenagers, but sell to them the industry did.   That same greed led a number of the biggest breeders to import from Anson Wong even though they knew he was a major illegal wildlife trafficker.   As a person who believes in responsible keeping it is a shame these reptile industry leaders could not really lead.

The new rule does not include Reticulated Pythons, the largest python on earth, and among its most aggressive.  That is strange. And no doubt will come up again.

The new rule also excludes boa constrictors from the ban.  That IMHO is a good thing.  Boas are not for everyone but they are manageable at most sizes.  What boa constrictors and other larger snakes need is not a ban but reasonable standards of welfare. That, too, is no doubt in the future of the reptile industry.  Its leaders should get in front of that.  But history says they won’t.

Operation Spiderman

Saturday, December 4th, 2010

German arrested for smuggling tarantulas to the US in Operation Spiderman.  It reminded me of one of my spidey adventures with Brian and a cobalt blue….