NEPA flays ‘unprecedented’ rise in exotic animals locally Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) says it is concerned about what it describes as an “unprecedented rise” in exotic animals being held by persons locally, this after the operation of a mobile zoo with exotic species was on display to the general public.

“Evidence of the zoo’s operation is being circulated on social media,” said NEPA in a release on Friday.

Social media was abuzz last week following the circulation of a video showing an Argentine black and white tegu, and several persons questioned how the lizard got into Jamaica.

The owner of the tegu, who identified himself as Oryane from Eastern Exotic Pets, said one of his employees made a walk with the pet that garnered public attention.

The man said the pet was not “an aggressive reptile”, and is “not an escapee”.

He also admitted to owning the mobile pet zoo, “where I have a lot of exotic animals, parrots and stuff like that”.

NEPA said on Friday that it is probing the circumstances surrounding the mobile zoo’s operations, as it suspects that the animals may have been imported illegally, or legally through the pet trade.

The agency said the primary species on display are the Argentine black and white tegu (Salvator merianae), and Bearded dragon (Pogona sp), which are both species of lizards.

Also on display was the Texas brown tarantula (Aphonopelma hentzi), a common species of tarantula living in southern United States.

“These species are not native species protected under the Wild Life Protection Act – 1945, but are species either imported legally into the country through the pet trade, or brought in illegally across the country’s borders,” NEPA declared.

“The public is hereby reminded that permits are required to import animals into the island, as these may pose serious risks of introduction of diseases, as well as serious invasive potential that affects the natural ecosystem,” the agency added.

NEPA cautioned that persons who intend to operate a zoo must apply for and obtain the requisite permit(s).

The agency said it will be consulting with the Veterinary Services Division of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Mining, the Jamaica Customs Agency, and the other key agencies with mandates regulating the introduction of non-native (exotic) species, to ensure that appropriate measures are in place to prevent the illegal importation of these species.

Meanwhile, NEPA is also concerned about the publication of information across social media platforms promoting the hunting and trade of protected species such as the Jamaican boa (Chilabothrus subflavus), Yellow-billed parrot (Amazona collaria), and Black-billed parrot (Amazona agilis).

“The importation and/or trade of these non-native species without requisite permits are illegal under the Endangered Species (Protection, Conservation and Regulation of Trade) Act – 2000,” NEPA advised.

An offence under the Act can attract a fine of not more than two million dollars and/or up to two years in jail.

Persons found in possession of the whole or part of a protected animal without an exemption certificate can be prosecuted under the Wild Life Protection Act, NEPA informed.

It added that, “If one is found guilty, they become liable to a fine not exceeding 100,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months.”

NEPA reminded the public to immediately contact the agency at Tel #: 1-888-991-5005, or 876-754-7540 if persons are seen in possession of protected and exotic species of animals.