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Re: ICZN - another use of the code

Rescued from truncation, very interesting post:

On 07/10/2010 18:25, Peter Brazaitis wrote:
Very interesting commentaries on ICZN.  However, there is a more
sinister and perhaps lucrative use of the "code".

Around, 1967, when the US put the Yacare caiman, Caiman yacare, of
South America on the US endangered species list and banned it from
importation into the US, the crocodilian leather industry went
bonkers.  It was one of the most heavily traded species and the basis
for the leather industry. Although over a million skins traded
annually, there were no legal sources or exporting countries for

Using ICZN guidelines, the industry pulled together skins of unknown
and undocumented origins and assigned them new taxons.  The material
was published first in non-peer reviewed industry publications, then
published in scientific journals, co-authored by two well-known
European taxonomists (one was dead at the time).   Having
"legitimized" the nomenclature in scientific publications, several
new taxons were created along with "descriptions" and their
"distributions".  The "type" skins were not deposited in a museum
collection for future reference -  it was not required.  The authors
further contributed the crocodilian section to the official  UN/CITES
identification manual for crocodilians and their derivatives,
distributed throughout the world for purposes of enforcing trade
regulations on skins.  The new names divided Yacare into several new
taxons that could now be listed "legally" in export documents , and
did not appear as prohibited in the listings of US Endangered
species,  and thus could technically be permitted for US importation.
I headed a team to Brazil to investigate the river systems that
defined the "species" distribution and we could find no validity to
the stated distributions or sub-specific designations.  The taxons
have since been refuted by a number of herpetologists but they still
stand in the literature.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service, relented and came in line with the
European community as part of the CITES treaty, and down-listed the
original species and all of its minions and opened the skins to US
trade as having sufficient numbers and protection in origin countries
(Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia).  However, caiman species cannot be
readily distinguished as to origin or sub-species once manufactured
into products which are not required to have species identification
labeling.  Caiman skins cost $20 - $50 per skin in the raw state
before tanning and manufacture, while genuine crocodile and alligator
skin costs hundreds of dollars per skin and are closely regulated.
Caiman skins mostly come out of Colombia.    Both skins are used to
make designer handbags costing up to $70,000 or so.  No labeling
means consumers have no idea which they are buying.   Nice deal!
Money opens all doors.

Peter Brazaitis

Forensic Herpetologist

155 Woodchuck Lane

Harwinton, CT 06791

Tel.: 860-485-0044

Cell: 860-480-2588

FAX: 860-485-9513



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