Could Hundreds of Stolen Endangered Texas Salamanders End Up on the Black Market?

The salamanders were all safe in their aquariums when staff left for work for the Thanksgiving holiday.

By Michael MarksDecember 5, 2016 4:10 pm

A federal San Marcos facility is missing its Texas blind salamanders – about 300 to be exact. The endangered salamanders are white and about 5 inches long.

When U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff left for the Thanksgiving holiday a few weeks ago, the salamanders were safe in their tanks. The salamanders were part of a program launched with the purpose of reintroducing the species back into wildlife should there be a need after a drought. But when staff returned, the salamanders had disappeared. There was no sign of forced entry at the center, and no sign that the salamanders had perhaps been eaten by some intruding animal. They were just gone.

Officials don’t know where the salamanders are now, although an investigation is underway. But it’s possible that they were stolen as part of an underground market for rare creatures.

Tanya Wyatt is a professor at Northumbria University and author of “Wildlife Trafficking: A Deconstruction of the Crime, the Victims and the Offenders“. She says there are many incentives for someone to steal rare and endangered salamanders.

“Salamanders and other amphibians and reptiles, too, are in demand on a black market,” Wyatt says, “for wildlife in terms of food, potentially, but also the pet trade and to some degree some traditional medicines in some communities as well.”

What you’ll hear in this segment:

– What sort of market exists for these salamanders

– How investigators would track down a possible culprit

– How often are animals like these found when they go missing?