TRADE IN NON-NATIVE AMPHIBIANS AND REPTILES IN TEXAS: LESSONS FOR BETTER MONITORING AND IMPLICATIONS FOR SPECIES INTRODUCTION
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In the United States, trade is monitored at different levels of government and state level insight requires combining federal, state, and local sources of information. Trade in wildlife and their products has implications on wild populations of species involved and introduction of non-native vertebrates, especially amphibians and reptiles, is linked to the commercial trade in these animals. We used: (1) federal databases; (2) surveys of pet owners at live animal expositions; (3) observations of sales at live animals expositions; and (4) data collected from dealers on the Internet to quantify imports, exports, and use of exotic herptiles traded in Texas. We recorded 1,192 unique taxonomic entities of amphibians and reptiles in commercial trade in Texas. A total of 949,901 live specimens were imported to Texas from 2002 to 2008. The top 16 imported taxa made up 73.36% of the trade. Internet and exposition-based trade was dominated by few species of common pets, with others represented in small numbers. Much trade persists in known invasive species and others that must have the potential to become invasive. We documented trade in 36 known invasive species, three of which are invasive in Texas. Our approach could serve as a template for assessing trade in non-native species at regional scales. Modifications to national databases would allow exports to be distinguished from re-exports, and adoption of standardized taxonomy would improve understanding of impacts of trade on species. State level management changes should be consistent across all 50 states to add continuity to laws governing non-native amphibians and reptiles kept as pets. 2011. Heather L. Prestridge. All Rights Reserved.