Monday 5 December 2016

US crackdown on foreign salamanders to keep out deadly fungus

Published 11/02/2016 | 19:21

A US ban on foreign salamanders is aimed at stopping a deadly amphibian fungus crossing the country's borders
A US ban on foreign salamanders is aimed at stopping a deadly amphibian fungus crossing the country's borders

Scientists have explained why the US has slapped a Donald Trump-style ban on all foreign salamanders.

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The banning order, which applies to 201 species of the amphibians, was imposed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service on January 12.

While presidential election hopeful Trump has vowed to keep out Muslims who might pose a terrorist threat, the wildlife authority is anxious to stop a deadly amphibian fungus crossing the country's borders.

Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) was first identified in the Netherlands in 2013, having hitched a ride on Asian salamanders imported into Europe as pets.

There are fears the fungus could spread and have as big an impact as the related infection Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) that has already decimated frog populations worldwide.

Professor Karen Lips, from the University of Maryland, said: "North America is home to the highest number of salamander species in the world. They are a vital and irreplaceable component of our forest ecosystems.

"Bsal is the latest invasive pathogen to threaten our native wildlife, but it will certainly not be the last. Both Bd and Bsal are examples of a much bigger, global-scale problem."

Professor Lips was a member of a team of scientists speaking about the urgent need to protect America's amphibians at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington DC.

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