Yesterday, two Florida men were sent to prison over wildlife trafficking in state and federally protected reptiles. While this case did not involve fishes, it points to ongoing problems with the wildlife trade and suggest why some would rather just see it shut down altogether. The two men co-owned Florida-based Glades Herp Farm Inc., and one of them hosted the Discovery Channel’s “Swamp Brothers.” The defendants were convicted on 15 November 2013 after a jury trial in Philadelphia. The case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement, with assistance from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.
The prison sentences handed down in the case–18 months and 12 months respectively–were for charges of conspiracy and trafficking in protected timber rattlesnakes (listed as threatened in New York) and endangered eastern indigo snakes, which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The eastern indigo snake, which is the longest North American species, is also protected under Florida law. In addition to prison time, the men will also also serve three years of supervised release and pay fines of $4,000 and $2,000 respectively.
According to court documents, over a two year period beginning 2006, the two men illegally collected protected wild rattlesnakes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, purchased rattlesnakes that had been illegally collected from the wild, and transported ESA listed eastern indigo snakes from Florida to Pennsylvania. The protected rattlesnakes, according to evidence presented at trial, were destined for the European reptile trade, while the ESA listed eastern indigo snakes were for sale domestically. Timber rattlesnakes fetch up to US$800 in Europe, and the eastern indigo snakes sell for as much as $1000 in the US.