The Mexican redknee tarantula: in danger of extinction. The Mexican redknee tarantula: in danger of extinction.

Illegal tarantulas threaten the species

Guadalajara conference considers conservation strategies for the spiders

If you’re looking to buy a pet tarantula in Mexico there are two main options: buy one legally from an established business that is authorized to sell the spiders or get one on the black market.

But only the first alternative will help conserve the endangered species whereas the second option will further contribute to its demise, according to tarantula researchers and breeders, who are meeting this week in Jalisco.

They are being joined by importers, vendors, investors and enthusiasts from Mexico, the United States and Canada at a tri-national tarantula seminar in Guadalajara.

Central to the meeting’s agenda is coming up with strategies to ensure the conservation of tarantula species and promoting the legal trade of the hairy arachnids over their sale in the shadow economy is seen as key.

The founder and operator of the Tarántulas de México Wildlife Management Unit in Guadalajara told the newspaper Milenio that the commercialization of tarantulas that have been illegally removed from their natural habitat has been devastating for the species, particularly the tarantula commonly known as the Mexican redknee.

“It’s astonishing [and] very sad, we have a species called the brachypelma smithi that has been [commercially] exploited for a long time and because of that it’s now very rare to find one on the coast of Jalisco,” José Rodrigo Orozco Torres said.

“The redknee is almost impossible to see in the wild now. Yes, there are some but very few compared to what there were before. They are in serious danger of extinction,” he added.

The spider’s popularity in the pet trade means that they have been targeted by traffickers who sell them illegally in markets such as the Baratillo Tianguis in Guadalajara and the Sonora market in Mexico City.

In addition to bringing the redknee tarantula to the brink of extinction, buying wild tarantulas also contributes to the creation of an ecological imbalance, according to the general director of the Arachnida wildlife management unit in Mexico City.

“They are apex predators . . . let’s say they are the tigers or lions of small animals . . . they control [insect] plagues and other animals,” Jorge Mendoza said.

In contrast to illegal vendors, registered breeders and businesses are committed to the sustainable trade of tarantulas.

People who buy spiders bred and raised in captivity, rather than in the wild, help to ensure their long-term survival because it also ensures that the people dedicated to the spiders’ survival have a viable business model.

According to the National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (Conabio), Mexican breeders raise between 11,000 and 14,000 tarantulas per year.

While many are exported for sale in the pet trade, there are also plans to begin releasing some back into the wild to help repopulate the depleted species.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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