Member Alert: Herp Imports
In at least three separate incidents this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) seized or refused to clear entry into the U.S. for reptiles that were captive-bred in Europe. These have included species native to Australia, New Caledonia, Mexico, and certain Caribbean nations. Some of these have long prohibited most exports of native species and/or have export permit requirements.

The apparent theory behind these actions is that the original export from their native country to Europe of the foundation stock may have occurred unlawfully, sometime in the distant past. What USARK does know is that FWS enforcement officials have requested production of copies of the export permits for the foundation stock. In most instances, this information is impossible to obtain, if it even exists. Simply because there is a current law on exportation does not mean this was the case at the time of the original export of the founding animals.

In light of these incidents, USARK believes there is
risk in importing species captive-bred in countries outside of their native ranges, particularly species native to the nations identified above.

USARK is investigating the origin and scope of this new policy. It was previously understood that FWS’ import regulations require the
production of any permits required by the exporting nation and allow, under certain circumstances, agents to request proof of the country of natal origin of the animals being imported. We see no source of authority allowing FWS to request information on the foundation stock of a captive-bred population. USARK will register its objections to this policy and work to rectify the situation. We will also request that FWS publicly clarify any policy changes to the requirements for importing these reptiles while the matter unfolds.

In the interim, we advise extra precautions until we are able to resolve these concerns satisfactorily.


Trade between the U.S. and Europe in captive-bred species, such as skinks, geckos, and other reptiles, has been conducted for decades without problems. In an apparent internal policy change, however, FWS has seized at least three shipments and demanded that importers provide proof not merely of the natal origin of the animals (in these cases, Germany), but of a lawful export of the foundation animals (no matter how long ago that was). USARK strongly believes such a request is not consistent with the law and regulations governing such imports.

We will continue to provide updates as we challenge and seek clarification of the policy.