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Discussion Starter #1
I saw this show up on facebook:

Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project » Defenders Urges USFWS to Ban Importation of Live Frogs That May Have Chytrid

Which, as a frog keeper, concerns me a little bit, especially after there has already been an effort to declare amphibians injurious wildlife if they haven't been tested for chytrid.

As a scientist, I have to keep an open mind about issues as new data is presented, so I decided to go directly to the source: an article titled "Multiple emergences of genetically diverse amphibian- infecting chytrids include a globalized hypervirulent recombinant lineage" by Farrer et al, published in November 2011 in the PNAS.

Here is the link to the paper, for those interested:

http://www.eurekalert.org/jrnls/pnas_pdfs/pnas.201111915.pdf

I guess to begin with a few things concern me. First off, the popular science article highlights that 16 of 20 samples were the same strain. It does not say that 9 of the 16 come from Europe, namely 1 from England, 2 from France, and 6 from Spain with 4 of the Spanish samples coming from the same spot). Of the remaining 7, the highly virulent strain of chytrid has been found in 2 US sites (Colorado and California), 2 Montserrat sites, 1 Canadian site, 1 Panamanian site, and 1 Australian site. No samples from all of Asia, South America, or the majority of Africa (their only samples were from South Africa and Mallorca). I am a little concerned about how relatively few sites were used to make a global conclusion.

But, I think that this paper got into a prestigious journal like PNAS because it found new strains of the disease in Switzerland and South Africa.

Several times in the paper, the authors blame amphibian trade for the spread of the disease, and that point seems to hinge on one key fact: that they found a new strain of chytrid in South Africa and in Mallorca. They cite a paper (which admittedly, I have not looked up yet), that hypothesizes that some captive Mallorcan Midwife Toads contracted the disease from some captive Xenopus gilli that were also at the facility, and then the toads were reintroduced to Mallorca, thus introducing the disease. The authors somehow blame this introduction on amphibian trade, a train of thought I don't follow, since if the X. gilli were brought in from the pet trade, that is still somewhat moot since it was poor biosecurity practices for the reintroduction program that resulted in introduction to the disease.

They make this conclusion in their discussion: "Here, we found that there is amuch greater diversity of Bd than was previously recognized, and that multiple lineages are being vectored between continents by the trade of amphibians." But in reading through their paper, this all seems like conjecture to me. This highly virulent strain of chytrid is found on the continents that tend to be net importers of amphibians, but, and I think this is a very big point, these continents are also comprised of people who are most likely to travel around the world as tourists, potentially going into contaminated areas, and tracking the disease to new areas.

I think they're really grasping at straws with their conclusions, at least putting blame on amphibian trade when a far more parsimonious answer to me is to blame people traveling to and from infected areas. I mean, I don't know of any highly sought after amphibians from Montserrat that would potentially bring chytrid to the island. I do agree with their final word that better biosecurity practices need to happen, but I think that the blame on amphibian trade is largely conjecture at this point.

And it concerns me that DoW may be basing their argument on science that is conjecture and has not been explicitly tested.

Am I the only one seeing the issues with this paper?
 

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I completely agree. I have yet to see really any solid evidence supporting claims that the amphibian trade is playing any form of major role in the spread of Chytrid. It seems like DOW is wanting what humans seem to do often when it comes to preventative measures. Attack an industry that doesn't affect them (although we should definitely be thought of as helping to genetically secure certain species), and they are going to far with it. Banning all importing? too much.

However, I would be all for importers needing to prove their shipment of animals is chytrid free before they can be brought in to the country. I would even be fine with having to get my animals tested and certified Bd free before I could ship across state lines. But of course banning it completely is easier for them, and congress isn't going to care if a few thousand people can't have their slimy, gross animals right?

On another note, how long can Bd survive on someones clothing or boots? How much is tourism really affecting this?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I completely agree. I have yet to see really any solid evidence supporting claims that the amphibian trade is playing any form of major role in the spread of Chytrid.
Personally, I would be surprised if amphibian trade wasn't playing a role, but my argument has always been that the degree of responsibility is not known. I don't think that it is having as large of impact as is being claimed. I think tourism and food industries likely are stronger vectors than pet trade.

However, I would be all for importers needing to prove their shipment of animals is chytrid free before they can be brought in to the country. I would even be fine with having to get my animals tested and certified Bd free before I could ship across state lines. But of course banning it completely is easier for them, and congress isn't going to care if a few thousand people can't have their slimy, gross animals right?
I think that this was what the USFWS item had proposed. Essentially, in order to move amphibians around, you had to prove they were chytrid free. I think I would have an issue with mandatory screening (for a variety of reason, but from a purely logistical stance, USFWS wouldn't be able to handle the load), but there are methods to encourage biosecurity that would encourage voluntary participation in the program, which I think would go over much better.

On another note, how long can Bd survive on someones clothing or boots? How much is tourism really affecting this?
Good question. I am not sure how long the spores can remain viable, but generally fungal spores can keep for some time, if in the right conditions (like on the mud of someone's boot). I'm not sure that it is known. They don't know how long it would remain viable in the environment after it kills off the amphibians. So much about chytrid is unknown. But perhaps someone has a better answer.
 

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Personally, I would be surprised if amphibian trade wasn't playing a role, but my argument has always been that the degree of responsibility is not known. I don't think that it is having as large of impact as is being claimed. I think tourism and food industries likely are stronger vectors than pet trade.
Ya that's what I meant. Even if it is having an affect on the spread of Bd it is minimal, especially when compared to tourism and food industry like you said. Another big one being the fishing industry. Apparently some invasive species are vectors as well. Out here, Bullfrogs aren't as effected by Bd as most amphibians, but they are huge carriers of it. Since young males move around so much (territory, etc.) they could transfer it long distances in a few years probably. Makes me wonder if chytrid could travel up from California this way easily.


I think that this was what the USFWS item had proposed. Essentially, in order to move amphibians around, you had to prove they were chytrid free. I think I would have an issue with mandatory screening (for a variety of reason, but from a purely logistical stance, USFWS wouldn't be able to handle the load), but there are methods to encourage biosecurity that would encourage voluntary participation in the program, which I think would go over much better.
That's true, they can't handle most of their jobs now due to budget cuts. Although I suppose it could be handled by several different branches (USF&W, USDA, EPA) but then you run the risk of mistakes. Such as?


Good question. I am not sure how long the spores can remain viable, but generally fungal spores can keep for some time, if in the right conditions (like on the mud of someone's boot). I'm not sure that it is known. They don't know how long it would remain viable in the environment after it kills off the amphibians. So much about chytrid is unknown. But perhaps someone has a better answer.
I'm sure most things like that would be cleaned before plane travel. But you have a good point, most people could move across states without washing their boots or wet clothing. When I have a chance, I'll see if I can find something about it's longevity.
 

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But of course banning it completely is easier for them, and congress isn't going to care if a few thousand people can't have their slimy, gross animals right?
Pet trade is only a small sector compared to the frogleg trade. That is a high dollar industry since the US is a major importer.

Ed
 

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Pet trade is only a small sector compared to the frogleg trade. That is a high dollar industry since the US is a major importer.

Ed
Ya I was saying they would consider it easy to stop the trade in amphibians as pets. I'm sure amphibian parts would be left alone because of what you said.


Thank you for the links, I have some reading to do apparently...
 

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I guess to begin with a few things concern me. First off, the popular science article highlights that 16 of 20 samples were the same strain. It does not say that 9 of the 16 come from Europe, namely 1 from England, 2 from France, and 6 from Spain with 4 of the Spanish samples coming from the same spot). Of the remaining 7, the highly virulent strain of chytrid has been found in 2 US sites (Colorado and California), 2 Montserrat sites, 1 Canadian site, 1 Panamanian site, and 1 Australian site. No samples from all of Asia, South America, or the majority of Africa (their only samples were from South Africa and Mallorca). I am a little concerned about how relatively few sites were used to make a global conclusion.
This is but the latest in a series of papers in which genetic analysis is pointing towards the same strain being widespread and of the greatest pathenogenicity. I cited a few in my first post in this thread.

hypothesizes that some captive Mallorcan Midwife Toads contracted the disease from some captive Xenopus gilli that were also at the facility, and then the toads were reintroduced to Mallorca, thus introducing the disease.
I think I read the original in which they backtracked and demonstrated that it did originate animals that were repatriated but if I remember correctly, the animals that the introduction occured before the global issue of Bd was understood (many people forget that it was first described relatively recently (1999!) yet can be shown to occur in preserved animals for decades prior to that point (before 1960!) and before good methods for testing were widely known.

They make this conclusion in their discussion: "Here, we found that there is amuch greater diversity of Bd than was previously recognized, and that multiple lineages are being vectored between continents by the trade of amphibians." But in reading through their paper, this all seems like conjecture to me. This highly virulent strain of chytrid is found on the continents that tend to be net importers of amphibians, but, and I think this is a very big point, these continents are also comprised of people who are most likely to travel around the world as tourists, potentially going into contaminated areas, and tracking the disease to new areas.
The fungus and it's spores are highly intolerant to many cleaning agents, heat, exposure on the skin or even drying so anthropogenic is restricted to conditions in which the fungus remains cool, moist and not exposed to various disinfectants...

I think they're really grasping at straws with their conclusions, at least putting blame on amphibian trade when a far more parsimonious answer to me is to blame people traveling to and from infected areas. I mean, I don't know of any highly sought after amphibians from Montserrat that would potentially bring chytrid to the island. I do agree with their final word that better biosecurity practices need to happen, but I think that the blame on amphibian trade is largely conjecture at this point.
The paper doesn't propose to disentangle the methods of introduction to all locations where it has shown up so expecting that as part of thier answer isn't really appropriate. We can readily extrapolate from what we know about the distribution of the fungus and the zoospores' ability to survive in water and come up with a viable theory that it's distribution could also be due to the live fish trade (see http://www.herpconbio.org/Volume_2/Issue_1/Green_Dodd_2007.pdf and the reference above on the zoospore viability in my first post)... but this also doesn't mean that in most areas that it doesn't come from the amphibian trade.

it concerns me that DoW may be basing their argument on science that is conjecture and has not been explicitly tested.
The DOW is spinning the paper for their own program and they keep explicity mentioning the live amphibian trade when the paper doesn't seperate the live from the food trade... It is well established that the food trade is also a major player in this whole issue... however as for explicit testing we have to also consider whether or not it is appropriate to wait for explicit studies that conclusively demonstrate the issue or take some actions to prevent further transmission and the risk of greater pathenogenicity to evolve from the geneotypes being able to combine and share DNA. The preponderent body of evidence is emerging that indicates that
1) the fungus probably emerged due to anthropogenic actions
2) the spread is in part due to antrhopogenic actions
3) the strains with the greatest pathenogenicity are endemic to many regions and are severely impacting amphibian fauna
4) zoospores can persist outside of the amphibian host...

So to some extent what is the tipping point where action needs to be taken?
Personally, I'm much more concerned about the emergence of ranaviruses in multi-taxa infections on a global scale....

Some comments,

Ed
 

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Discussion Starter #9
So to some extent what is the tipping point where action needs to be taken?
Personally, I'm much more concerned about the emergence of ranaviruses in multi-taxa infections on a global scale....

Some comments,

Ed
I agree that the big question is what is the tipping point. And I also do think that something needs to be done about it, but I am not sure that what DOW will really be all that effective. It is like the python ban. It really is not going to do much at all to combat pythons in Florida. I don't think an import of live amphibians ban would even slow the spread of chytrid. There are numerous other vectors out there that are known contributors that have much bigger impacts.

So I don't understand why the pressure has been put on the trade of live amphibians. Is it just because it's the easiest target? Or are there PETA people pushing it? Or is it, among the parties involved, live amphibian trade is least organized to push an effective campaign against the legislation?
 

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From our hobby's perspective 10 times more Chytrid has been imported from Europe than South & Central America, as hobbyists with a real incentive to keep healthy uninfected stock we should be the least of the governments worries.
 

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I agree that the big question is what is the tipping point. And I also do think that something needs to be done about it, but I am not sure that what DOW will really be all that effective. It is like the python ban. It really is not going to do much at all to combat pythons in Florida. I don't think an import of live amphibians ban would even slow the spread of chytrid. There are numerous other vectors out there that are known contributors that have much bigger impacts.
Let me play devil's advocate here.. your implying that the strain that is globally distributed is the worst possible strain that could have emerged from the combining of the DNA from the strains.. yet we don't know which two strains combined as of yet nor do we know that a combination with another strain (or a combination of two or more other strains that have a low lethality) wouldn't result in a strain of even greater lethality..
As an analogy, let us consider ebola in humans.. Ebola Reston has a low ability to be infectious in humans (it did cause seroconversion) but can be transmitted via air born particulates while Ebola Sudan has a mortality of around 50 %.. yet you wouldn't want to see Ebola Reston aquire the mortaliy rate of Ebola sudan (or Ebola Zaire (90% mortality rate), while still being able to be infectious through airborn particulates...

So to sum it up... where do we put the tipping point? Do we ignore the potential of alternate of potentially greater lethality emerging from further combinations of the fungi or do we take some action? When do we put the stability of the ecosystem before the desire for more frogs in the tanks?

Taking of the Devil's advocate hat for the moment...

One of the potential greatest contributors to chytrid movement and infection of ecosystems is probably due to aquaculture since they are typically outdoors, water is flow through and into the local waterways and if they are breeding amphibians they are generally species tolerant of chytrid infection (Xenopus, Bullfrogs..) or if sensitive (Hymenochirus ssp) kept in warm water systems not conducive to mortality events by chytrid but fully capable of carrying fruiting chytrid which can then release zoospores into waterways when enclosure water is discarded into the local sewage systems (many sewage systems are combined with rainwater runoff so in heavy rains, the waste water is discarded untreated allowing for release of active zoospores) or dumped into a yard potentially exposing amphibians to novel strains.

Now we know that at the hobbyist and institutional levels, this can be prevented by simply using a sump to catch waste water and disinfect it with bleach before discarding but what would be required for larger importers to be able to meet those conditions?

Ed
 

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From our hobby's perspective 10 times more Chytrid has been imported from Europe than South & Central America, as hobbyists with a real incentive to keep healthy uninfected stock we should be the least of the governments worries.
The hobbyists who want to keep uninfected stock are probably a small portion of the amphibian hobbyists who are keeping dwarf aquatic frogs (Hymenochirus ssp) or imported newts in thier tanks... (or wild caught green treefrogs or other small wild caught hylids). We are the actual minority......

Ed
 

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Discussion Starter #13
So to sum it up... where do we put the tipping point? Do we ignore the potential of alternate of potentially greater lethality emerging from further combinations of the fungi or do we take some action? When do we put the stability of the ecosystem before the desire for more frogs in the tanks?
I totally agree that something needs to be done. There is no doubt about that. The status quo clearly is not working with regard to chytrid.

So I look at it in a "most bang for the buck" sort of stance. What action can be take to prevent the spread of chytrid or mixing of strains with the greatest deal of success. It is possible that limiting amphibian trade will have some effect, but I would equate that to damming the Mississippi with a stick.

I think that there are bigger culprits out there that could be targeted that would have a greater effect, which have been mentioned already. It would seem to me, for example, less logistically problematic to force aquaculture facilities to enact biosecurity policies with regard to chytrid (from a numbers standpoint, there are far fewer aquaculture facilities than amphibian keepers, and therefore should be easier to inspect and enforce).

I do think, as well, that there has not, as of yet, been a good unified campaign to educate people that they could, for example, be spreading chytrid by tossing out old water. Education is going to be key to reversing the spread of chytrid, from proper biosecurity of home tanks to proper biosecurity of personal items taken through potentially chytrid infected places.
 

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The hobbyists who want to keep uninfected stock are probably a small portion of the amphibian hobbyists who are keeping dwarf aquatic frogs (Hymenochirus ssp) or imported newts in thier tanks... (or wild caught green treefrogs or other small wild caught hylids). We are the actual minority......

Ed
That is why I said I'd be fine with us needing to have certified Chytrid free frogs. Most of the wild caught frogs that come in are either going to pet shops or sellers like the ones on Kingsnake. And most of those will probably die pretty quickly anyway. Getting the smaller shipments of frogs this hobby depends on would be easier to certify and bring in. Even if we are bringing in thousands of auratus every year, that is still minimal compared to other species. And in my opinion that number could drop anyway, and then we can supply more CB auratus to the hobby.

I guess my bottom line is, I don't see the pet industry as the largest threat, and I feel those other threats should be much more regulated. However, if some form of import ban was going to be in place I would be fine with it, as long as there were some sort of system that allowed companies like Understory to bring in responsibly harvested frogs. At least that way the responsible hobbyists could still have their frogs, help preserve captive populations of certain species, as well as keep the pet industry from harming wild populations of frogs (over harvesting).
 

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Devil's advocate hat back on...

So I look at it in a "most bang for the buck" sort of stance. What action can be take to prevent the spread of chytrid or mixing of strains with the greatest deal of success. It is possible that limiting amphibian trade will have some effect, but I would equate that to damming the Mississippi with a stick.
If the transport of chytrid from novel locations doesn't occur then it would prevent mixing of species and the risk of more pathenogenic strains. Since those strains are geographically located, then limiting movement of amphibians into and out of those regions would impact not only the distribution of the strains of chytrid but thier opportunity to exchange genetic information.

I think that there are bigger culprits out there that could be targeted that would have a greater effect, which have been mentioned already. It would seem to me, for example, less logistically problematic to force aquaculture facilities to enact biosecurity policies with regard to chytrid (from a numbers standpoint, there are far fewer aquaculture facilities than amphibian keepers, and therefore should be easier to inspect and enforce).
While aquaculture is probably the largest vector, it doesn't mean that the pet trade is also not culpable in the potential risk... all because it is a smaller volume when compared to the food trade, it doesn't mean that in and of itself it is an insignificant risk...


I do think, as well, that there has not, as of yet, been a good unified campaign to educate people that they could, for example, be spreading chytrid by tossing out old water. Education is going to be key to reversing the spread of chytrid, from proper biosecurity of home tanks to proper biosecurity of personal items taken through potentially chytrid infected places.
Let us hypothesize for a moment that this forum is an accurate representative of the amphibian pet trade... I have been beating the drum in multiple threads on waste water (and waste materials) for years now and while many people routinely disinfect or quarantine thier plants, what subset do you think actually disinfects their waste water? Aquaculture facilities can be inspected to ensure that they are doing the best practices but what method do you use to get compliance from memebers of the hobby?

Advocate Hat off...

I think the both of you will find this interesting. http://salvemossapos.com/kerry_kriger/pdfs/Garner-2009-Reply-to-Kriger.pdf
 

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Devil's advocate hat back on...

Getting the smaller shipments of frogs this hobby depends on would be easier to certify and bring in.
Why does this or any other hobby require small shipments of frogs? The methodology to sustain the genetics of the captive populations is readily available and the genetics could be sustained for at least one to 200 years..

I guess my bottom line is, I don't see the pet industry as the largest threat, and I feel those other threats should be much more regulated.
See my comments to JP above.. There is a significant distinction between being the largest threat and no threat at all.. The live frog pet trade is a threat and while smaller than the threat posed by aquaculture, it is incorrect at best to imply that since aquaculture is so large a threat that the pet trade is little to no threat.. Consider that some of the most desirable frogs for the pet trade are those that are from hard to reach or collect areas in which novel (unexposed to other strains) strains of chytrid are more likely to be found, and then can comingle at the exporter, importer, distributor, and hobbyist locations..raising the risk of a new genetic combination emerging from that exposure... This is a different scenario than the aquaculture which are typically located close to human centers where labor and transport of the products are to be located. In those areas, exposure to the globably distributed strain is already come and gone and the risk of a novel form being able to combine with the high lethality strain is low....

Advocate hat off..

Ed
 

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Let's be brutally honest here.....we as a hobby aren't organized or funded enough to do crap. The govenment is going to take whatever antiquated advice it gets and throw millions of dollars at it regardless of what the actual impact is on the environment or hobbyists. It's gonna proptect whatever is the biggest money making (read tax paying) sector is. That's the way it works. Look what they just did with the big constrictors.
 

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Let's be brutally honest here.....we as a hobby aren't organized or funded enough to do crap. The govenment is going to take whatever antiquated advice it gets and throw millions of dollars at it regardless of what the actual impact is on the environment or hobbyists. It's gonna proptect whatever is the biggest money making (read tax paying) sector is. That's the way it works. Look what they just did with the big constrictors.
Just to clarify a few points here.. First off, the information is not antiquated... it is emerging and there are some significant trends where there is a preponderence of evidence... That right off the bat distinguishes it from the python issue.
Secondly, what happened with the large constrictors was not controlled at all by who ever has the largest money making sector.. as an example, please name the money makers that benefited from the invasive rulings for those snakes?

There is a lot of hype on both sides of the invasive rulings for burmese, rock pythons and anacondas and as a result I suggest avoiding the poison koolaid that is being wildly splashed about on both sides...

Ed
 

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Just to clarify a few points here.. First off, the information is not antiquated... it is emerging and there are some significant trends where there is a preponderence of evidence... That right off the bat distinguishes it from the python issue.
Secondly, what happened with the large constrictors was not controlled at all by who ever has the largest money making sector.. as an example, please name the money makers that benefited from the invasive rulings for those snakes?

There is a lot of hype on both sides of the invasive rulings for burmese, rock pythons and anacondas and as a result I suggest avoiding the poison koolaid that is being wildly splashed about on both sides...

Ed
Ed I like that you're always the voice of reason. So why not ban large constrictors in just Florida? Why should someone in say Wyoming have to suffer because some idiots in Florida released their snakes into the wild and now they're eating alligators. Don't get me wrong I consider those and many other animals ie crocodillians, pirhanas, etc. as animals that some people keep just because they get big and they like to see them eat things. I don't think most people should have access to them. Just like people shouldn't keep tigers in apartments. But it's happened before and it will happen again. I understand the fear of chytrid and how this differs from the constrictor issues. But c'mon when has the government ever done anything right when it comes to an issue like this? Are they going to seek out the opinions of hobbyists and pet store owners? No they are not. The government has it's head stuck up it's ass. It's much easier to just slap down a total importation ban than it is to actually take steps to control the spread of Bd. I guess since were coming up on an election Obama can say he did two things in his four years in office, banned large constrictors and saved the world from Bd.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
If the transport of chytrid from novel locations doesn't occur then it would prevent mixing of species and the risk of more pathenogenic strains. Since those strains are geographically located, then limiting movement of amphibians into and out of those regions would impact not only the distribution of the strains of chytrid but thier opportunity to exchange genetic information.
It is true, but I still contend that there are other vectors not currently being addressed that are more worrisome. I agree that the collection of frogs does have the potential to move novel strains to new areas, but I think there are other, more likely and more common methods of transport that should be addressed first.

While aquaculture is probably the largest vector, it doesn't mean that the pet trade is also not culpable in the potential risk... all because it is a smaller volume when compared to the food trade, it doesn't mean that in and of itself it is an insignificant risk...
I agree that the hobby shouldn't be written off as being insignificant. But, that said, how much effect is targeting the hobby, and only the hobby, on limiting the dispersal of chytrid? I have yet to see pushes for biosecurity against chytrid in those other larger vectors.

Let us hypothesize for a moment that this forum is an accurate representative of the amphibian pet trade... I have been beating the drum in multiple threads on waste water (and waste materials) for years now and while many people routinely disinfect or quarantine thier plants, what subset do you think actually disinfects their waste water? Aquaculture facilities can be inspected to ensure that they are doing the best practices but what method do you use to get compliance from memebers of the hobby?
It's true. I think that the effects of proper biosecurity is something not grasped by most in the hobby. It is very much an "out of sight, out of mind" mentality that most people have. People need to see more direct effects of improper biosecurity practices. How to do that, I don't know...

Advocate Hat off...

I think the both of you will find this interesting. http://salvemossapos.com/kerry_kriger/pdfs/Garner-2009-Reply-to-Kriger.pdf
Yep, already have seen that one.

Rusty_Shackleford said:
I guess since were coming up on an election Obama can say he did two things in his four years in office, banned large constrictors and saved the world from Bd.
This is not a red vs. blue issue. There are people on both sides that are for and against the proposed legislation for Bd as well as for the python ban. Please don't make this a political issue. It is not. It is a scientific issue, let's keep it to that.
 
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