NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

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chrish
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NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

Post by chrish » November 17th, 2014, 8:31 am

Anybody in favor of NAFHA being forward thinking and adopting a "hands off" policy for NAFHA in regard to amphibians?

I'm not saying we shouldn't all be out there enjoying amphibians, but I'm wondering to what degree herpers are contributing to the spread or potential spread of chytrid fungi and other pathogens to critters we hold dear.

Maybe this is all old news, but I just read this paper (http://vipersgarden.at/PDF_files/PDF-7250.pdf) about another Chytrid fungus infecting European Salamanders. Even though the potential to spread this fungus is low and the potential effect on most North American salamanders is lower than old world species it is a gentle reminder that even our non-consumptive photo and release herping policies may lead to the extermination of some species.

Maybe it might be time for NAFHA to take a stand and say "hands off" our amphibs. Look for them, photograph them (in situ), enjoy them yes. But don't touch them.

Failing to put a rock back where you flipped it or busting caprocks off granite may be potentially destructive to an individual or even a microregion, but it doesn't threaten a whole species. Yet we get all up in arms when we see or hear about that.

But handling amphibians could represent a much more serious threat and yet we all admire each other's obviously posed amphibian photos or cute pictures of kids holding salamanders.

You don't need a perfectly posed photo of that frog/salamander. No really - you don't! Or is your photo so important you would risk potentially leading to the extinction of that whole population or even species? Hyperbolic.....maybe?
And maybe we have to teach our children that you can't hold every herp you find because that can threaten the species (in age appropriate language, of course).

If we could rewind the clock 30 years and apply that policy to populations of frogs now extinct I think we would. Show your children a photo of Incilius periglenes and when they say "Wow I want to see one of those one day!", you have to explain that we weren't careful enough and now they can never see one.

If we don't stand up to protect these critters who will? Why not take a stand as an organization and get the word out to the casual herpers. Admire, enjoy, photograph, just don't touch.

Just some food for thought.

Chris

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Re: NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

Post by MonarchzMan » November 17th, 2014, 8:58 am

My $0.02 and take it for what you will, but a hands off policy isn't really going to do much in the way of stopping the movement of chytrid, if that is the purpose of the hands-off policy. Chytrid can be transported on any gear one takes into the field, so while you may not directly transfer chytrid to an animal by not touching it, that animal is still equally at risk if you did not sanitize your boots. Or your tripod. Or your camping gear. So on and so forth. While I don't have any data to support this, I would assume, in general, the risk of transmitting chytrid via direct touch of the hand would be rather low simply because of how much the hands, in general, get cleaned.

If NAFHA wants an official policy towards amphibians, I would say a biosecurity policy would be better served (i.e., bleach equipment after trips). The main benefit to a hands off policy, IMO, is reducing stress to the animal, which could be argued for any herp, not just amphibians. I would say having a policy on how to handle amphibians (i.e., use wet hands, no lotions/sprays, hold by the leg, minimize skin contact by restraining by the legs, etc.) would be useful, and something that should be done for all herps, not just amphibians.

The same biosecurity policy would help with transfer of other diseases like the very poorly known snake fungus that is wreaking havoc. The same argument could be made for a NAFHA policy of not handling snakes, but good luck with that one. I think a more effective policy would be biosecurity.

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Re: NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

Post by spinifer » November 17th, 2014, 9:09 am

As MonarchzMan said, a hands-off only approach does not make sense. The fungus is transmitted through soil, so if you enter the habitat contaminated you are just as likely to harm the population than if you touch an animal.

Decontamination of shoes and equipment is the best way to slow the spread. But once it is here it will only be a matter of time, as it can be spread by wildlife such as deer and birds.

We already have diseases here that are a threat to population (e.g. rana virus), so we should already be doing these things.

If you really dont want to see our populations decimated by this new disease you will support importation bans on animals that could be infected (ie. salamanders from Europe and Asia).

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Re: NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

Post by MonarchzMan » November 17th, 2014, 9:54 am

spinifer wrote:If you really dont want to see our populations decimated by this new disease you will support importation bans on animals that could be infected (ie. salamanders from Europe and Asia).
IMO, this is a bad or worse policy to take. I don't think bans would be good because it would force the market underground where there is zero regulation. I think either mandatory testing of incoming animals and/or yearly certification of chytrid free environments by importers and sellers would be the best approach.

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Re: NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

Post by chris_mcmartin » November 17th, 2014, 10:10 am

I haven't been to a recent NAFHA-sanctioned event, so maybe something like this is currently in effect, but if not:

Would it be helpful to have "cleaning stations" set up on-site at the event for attendees' equipment, boots, etc. to sanitize them prior to departing the area? In other words, make it easier for people to practice due diligence rather than assume everyone will clean their stuff when they get home?

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Re: NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

Post by cbernz » November 17th, 2014, 10:27 am

My first herp experiences were catching frogs. Same for my two kids. I'm willing to bet that for majority of herpers and nature enthusiasts, catching frogs is their first up-close experience with herps, and I bet that for many, catching frogs is a catalyst for a lifetime of interest in the natural world. I think preaching a hands-off approach might do more harm than good, if it discourages young kids from getting their hands dirty at an early age.

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Re: NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

Post by spinifer » November 17th, 2014, 12:52 pm

MonarchzMan wrote:
spinifer wrote:If you really dont want to see our populations decimated by this new disease you will support importation bans on animals that could be infected (ie. salamanders from Europe and Asia).
IMO, this is a bad or worse policy to take. I don't think bans would be good because it would force the market underground where there is zero regulation. I think either mandatory testing of incoming animals and/or yearly certification of chytrid free environments by importers and sellers would be the best approach.
I wrote my response fast. What you suggest would also be acceptable, although much more difficult to execute.

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Re: NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

Post by MonarchzMan » November 17th, 2014, 2:48 pm

spinifer wrote:
I wrote my response fast. What you suggest would also be acceptable, although much more difficult to execute.
Oh, I definitely agree. I think, realistically, think it has the best chance of actually limiting the spread of the disease, but it would, also realistically, be difficult to execute (and would be costly).

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Re: NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

Post by Owen » November 17th, 2014, 9:39 pm

I actually have a small spray bottle with bleach solution in the back of the auto. Mainly, the problem will be with gear, not hands... shoes/boots being the big culprit. I wash my hands enough that I doubt there is much risk of having it on my hands. That said, handling no more than needed such as removing to re-seat cover objects should be standard practice.

BTW, 'phibs pose nicely for you. This one just crawled up the rock about 3 feet from me:

Image

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Re: NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

Post by nightdriver » November 18th, 2014, 8:14 pm

Some sort of caution is certainly worth considering. I certainly try not to handle whenever ....possible?? I gave up trying to take fancy naturefake shots years ago.....Unfortunately, I pretty much stopped photoing all together. I typically only photo now for entries into the database. However, we also have a certain number of people....data requesters.... that feel a record without a photo is worthless. Many amphibs would/could go "un-documented" ....just sayin'. That being said, once I have one photo, I really don't see the need to continue to catch every specimen, just to record more data. A comment would hopefully suffice if 500 were seen....

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Re: NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

Post by chrish » November 19th, 2014, 5:58 am

If not just hands off, maybe NAFHA can come up with a suggested protocol to minimize the spread of pathogens?

Stickies on how to clean your gear, policies for meetings (i.e. set up cleaning stations).

I just think it would be nice if we could spearhead a movement to get non-professional herpers to consider their potential "footprint".

Can we keep non-herpers from tracking spores into pristene areas? Probably not, but an education program goes a long way to curbing the spread.

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Re: NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

Post by Fundad » November 19th, 2014, 11:36 am

If not just hands off, maybe NAFHA can come up with a suggested protocol to minimize the spread of pathogens?
Chris,

I am open to this idea if you want to write it up for us?

If you do, I can bring it up to the IB.

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Re: NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

Post by spinifer » November 19th, 2014, 8:27 pm


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Re: NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

Post by chrish » November 19th, 2014, 8:34 pm

Interestingly, there was an OpEd in the New York Times about this last week -

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/15/opini ... lypse.html

Maybe we can use the PARC document as a basis for putting together the NAFHA protocol?

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Re: NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

Post by jonathan » November 21st, 2014, 6:33 am

cbernz wrote:My first herp experiences were catching frogs. Same for my two kids. I'm willing to bet that for majority of herpers and nature enthusiasts, catching frogs is their first up-close experience with herps, and I bet that for many, catching frogs is a catalyst for a lifetime of interest in the natural world. I think preaching a hands-off approach might do more harm than good, if it discourages young kids from getting their hands dirty at an early age.
Anyone doing anything with NAFHA probably is already well past the "catalyst" stage. And if not, then though their experience with NAFHA they are probably going to be getting a lot of potential catalyst experiences that don't have to involve touching amphibians.

Not that I'm saying that reduced touching isn't a good idea. I'm strongly in favor of reducing the stress on animals for the purpose of photography. That includes both reptiles and amphibians, but especially amphibians, because they are more sensitive for reasons beyond just the spread of disease. And not only direct handling but...

* Forcing an animal to sit through a 15-60 minute photography session...sometimes 4-5 times in a row
* Repeatedly poking an animal with a stick until it adopts a certain pose
* Purposely tiring/stressing the animal until it gives up and poses
* Cooling the animal until it moves at the desired slowness
* Keeping the animal in a box overnight so you can photograph it in the right light

I don't think NAFHA should adopt a ban on any of these practices. But I think we should seriously think about out own practices and what we encourage others to do.

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Re: NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

Post by cbernz » November 21st, 2014, 7:18 am

jonathan wrote:Anyone doing anything with NAFHA probably is already well past the "catalyst" stage.
Ok, but my point is that you're not going to have one handling policy for newbies and one for experienced herpers, you're going to have a single policy, that will be expressed in any kind of education or outreach undertaken by NAFHA or its members. You can't have a hands off policy and then take a bunch of schoolchildren out to catch frogs and salamanders. If your policy is hands off, then your culture is hands off, and that is the message that will be conveyed to the public. My view is that we need as many kids out there catching frogs and salamanders as we can get.

Your point about other equally stressful things we do to herps is a good one. Maybe that kind of stuff can be mitigated with a code of ethics or conduct rather than a strict policy.

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Re: NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

Post by Fundad » November 21st, 2014, 11:50 am

As for setting policies such as Hands off we need an active International Board. Unfortunately, this isn't the case.

1/3 to 1/2 of the elected IB board members are active, some of this years chapters representatives have never checked into the IB board.


I will be addressing this with our Chapter California Chapter Board, but for bylaws and the national context, it will need the elected IB board members
to be active.

Brian Hinds
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NAFHA

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Re: NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

Post by chris_mcmartin » November 22nd, 2014, 4:57 am

Fundad wrote:I will be addressing this with our Chapter California Chapter Board, but for bylaws and the national context, it will need the elected IB board members to be active.
Have various chapters devise their own protocols and try them out for a season; take the best practices and merge them into a proposal for the IB to adopt. That also buys time to cajole the board members into more active participation. 8-)

I think providing "sanitation stations" at each event should be tried out. You STILL won't be able to get everyone to clean their shoes/gear, but it's a start--plus its presence would help instill a culture of doing that sort of thing, for those who aren't accustomed to doing so.

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Re: NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

Post by Fundad » November 22nd, 2014, 5:21 pm

1/3 to 1/2 of the elected IB board members are active, some of this years chapters representatives have never checked into the IB board.

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Re: NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

Post by dery » November 23rd, 2014, 9:24 pm

jonathan wrote:
cbernz wrote:My first herp experiences were catching frogs. Same for my two kids. I'm willing to bet that for majority of herpers and nature enthusiasts, catching frogs is their first up-close experience with herps, and I bet that for many, catching frogs is a catalyst for a lifetime of interest in the natural world. I think preaching a hands-off approach might do more harm than good, if it discourages young kids from getting their hands dirty at an early age.
Anyone doing anything with NAFHA probably is already well past the "catalyst" stage. And if not, then though their experience with NAFHA they are probably going to be getting a lot of potential catalyst experiences that don't have to involve touching amphibians.

Not that I'm saying that reduced touching isn't a good idea. I'm strongly in favor of reducing the stress on animals for the purpose of photography. That includes both reptiles and amphibians, but especially amphibians, because they are more sensitive for reasons beyond just the spread of disease. And not only direct handling but...

* Forcing an animal to sit through a 15-60 minute photography session...sometimes 4-5 times in a row
* Repeatedly poking an animal with a stick until it adopts a certain pose
* Purposely tiring/stressing the animal until it gives up and poses
* Cooling the animal until it moves at the desired slowness
* Keeping the animal in a box overnight so you can photograph it in the right light

I don't think NAFHA should adopt a ban on any of these practices. But I think we should seriously think about out own practices and what we encourage others to do.
I don't recall ever performing any such techniques. Yes, I do occasionally handle and position amphibians and I don't want to be banned from doing that. However, I definitely believe those techniques are too extreme. I only cup them in my hands, then, hold them if need be, and let the amphibians go.

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Re: NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

Post by jonathan » November 24th, 2014, 3:27 am

cbernz wrote:
jonathan wrote:Anyone doing anything with NAFHA probably is already well past the "catalyst" stage.
Ok, but my point is that you're not going to have one handling policy for newbies and one for experienced herpers, you're going to have a single policy, that will be expressed in any kind of education or outreach undertaken by NAFHA or its members. You can't have a hands off policy and then take a bunch of schoolchildren out to catch frogs and salamanders. If your policy is hands off, then your culture is hands off, and that is the message that will be conveyed to the public. My view is that we need as many kids out there catching frogs and salamanders as we can get.
And my point is that anyone on a NAFHA event is going to be getting a much better initial exposure to reptiles and amphibians than a simple "grab amphibians" experience provides.

I do think that catching salamanders and frogs can be a positive experience for a child. It was a big part of my growing up. But most kids who grab frogs don't become conservationists - in fact, some of them might even spend their lives exploiting nature without contributing something positive back to it. If we have the opportunity to provide a more meaningful experience to kids, and they both get the chance to have fun (and perhaps handle some more amiable snakes and lizards) AND get to understand the problems with handling amphibians, I think that could be even better.

I'm not advocating that we adopt a "no handling amphibians" policy. I'm just pointing out that the handling of amphibians isn't necessary to give kids a great introductory experience.

Heck, just last night I caputured the attention of two 11-year-olds (one boy, one girl) for an hour just by telling stories about my experiences of scorpions. You can get a ton of mileage out of good information, good stories, and animal viewing, with appropriate handling mixed in, without having to do anything harmful to the animals.

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Re: NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

Post by Hadar » February 3rd, 2015, 3:01 pm

Coming from the lens of working in the veterinary medicine field, I always try to clean my hands between physical contact with amphibians. I do the same for reptiles too. I keep hand sanitizer in my bag and a bottle of water so I can disinfect my hands after handling any animal and then rinse off residue. The current hand sanitizer I use is alcohol free. Diseases are constantly being spread and as many have pointed out, washing your hands isn't going to keep the field sterile, but it may help an immune suppressed individual. Cleaning your boots and equipment between sites is ideal. Personally, I scrap mud off of my boots at the current site and wash them off with water since I don't carry bleach with me.

I've worked for an exotic animal hospital and two university Veterinary Teaching Hospitals where we used Chlorhexidine (brand name Nolvasan) for disinfecting and in low doses (dilution is the solution) you can use it in surgical procedures on amphibians. The concentration depends on the use. Bactine spray can be purchased at any pharmacy and most general grocery stores and that is used in veterinary medicine for disinfecting wounds on amphibian skin. I don't recommend spraying frogs with either of these disinfectants in the field but in the hospital it does happen so I wouldn't be super worried about residual disinfectant on your hands harming them (IF it is one of these disinfectants and the appropriate concentration)!

Nolvasan is kind of a miracle in the vet world. We used it once in an emergency situation at work to internally disinfect a hamster that had its intestines ripped out of its body by another hamster. The injured hamster recovered. They can be evil little guys but they are tough!

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Re: NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

Post by gbin » February 4th, 2015, 7:21 am

I'm not about to naysay good hygienic field practices, but given some of the things that have been said in this thread, it seems time (yet again) for a reminder of something:

Although early on some folks blamed scientists (and others who worked/played with amphibians afield) for the rapid spread of chitridiomycosis, e.g. on themselves or their equipment, that notion has now been quite thoroughly debunked for quite some time. I don't know the specifics about Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, the fungus that Chris brought up in his original post, but B. dendrobatidis (Bd), the fungus which presently poses such a serious threat to amphibians (especially anurans) worldwide, doesn't appear to spread via any means other than from already infected animals or contaminated water or damp soil. This particular fungus is considered fairly aquatic and dies quickly when too dry or too warm. Accordingly, a person isn't going to spread Bd anywhere it doesn't already exist by handling amphibians or carrying equipment from one site to another, even if s/he fails to keep hands and equipment clean. Hands are warm and dry quickly because of it (both lethal to Bd, remember), and even if a contaminated site is close enough to an uncontaminated site for wet equipment to carry it from one to the other, well, that second site almost certainly isn't really uncontaminated, or at the very best won't be for long no matter what humans do. Mind you, there are still plenty of good reasons for field workers to keep themselves and their equipment clean! ;)

And it's not that humans are off the hook, either. The current belief - with a fair amount of credible evidence behind it (unlike the idea that field workers spread Bd, which apparently has none) - is that African clawed frogs served as the original source of the infection, and that humans spread it far and wide by spreading these frogs, especially for use by medicos for diagnosing pregnancy. Some of these frogs escaped or were intentionally released at various locations where such pregnancy testing was done (which was all over the place not so very long ago), and nature took it from there. It may be that the situation was worsened dramatically in some areas because Bd promptly spread from African clawed frogs to bullfrogs, which humans also move all over the place with regularity. And after the infection had been spread to various sites, myriad commercial practices that involve transporting water or damp soil (or inadvertently transport amphibians) likely help spread it further and faster. Climate-changing pollution (i.e. global warming) is doubtless also worsening matters.

Folks who doubt what I'm saying certainly need not take my word for things. Indeed, I encourage interested people to read up (in credible sources) on the subject. AmphibiaWeb, for example, does a good job of keeping up with and summarizing the literature on their webpage An Overview of Chytridiomycosis. Here's what they have to say in their section on how Bd is spreading:
There is ample evidence to suggest that Bd is being spread through human actions, but so far no concrete evidence on how it moves naturally through the environment (i.e., whether wind-borne, transmitted via alternate hosts, etc.). Bd (along with other amphibian pathogens such as ranaviruses) is an unintentional beneficiary of the international amphibian trade (Fisher and Garner 2007). It is being carried via species exported globally for human consumption (mainly bullfrogs, Rana catesbeiana; see Mazzoni et al. 2003; Schloegel et al. 2009; Bai et al. 2010), the international pet trade (e.g., Une et al. 2008), and the scientific trade (Xenopus laevis, Weldon et al. 2004, Weldon 2005; Silurana tropicalis, Reed et al. 2005). It may also be spreading through the bait trade (mainly larval Eastern tiger salamanders, Ambystoma tigrinum, exported within the United States); Picco and Collins (2008) reported Bd-positive water samples from three of nine bait shops, although they noted that only one of the three Bd-positive water samples also had a corresponding positive PCR test from larval tiger salamander foot swabs.

Bd is also likely to be spreading via amphibians inadvertently translocated in produce. Obendorf (2005) concluded that such human-mediated transmission had occurred in Tasmania at least as early as 1993, based on his review of a pathology case reported by the DPIPWE (Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, and Environment) Animal Health Laboratories in Launceston, Tasmania. A captive colony of Litoria burrowsae, the Tasmanian tree frog, developed symptoms consistent with chytridiomycosis (lethargy, severe skin lesions, mortality) after a tree frog found in a banana box that had been imported from the Australian mainland was placed in the colony (Obendorf 2005). McDonald and Speare (2000) estimated that up to 50,000 frogs per year are accidentally carried in produce. O'Dwyer et al. (2000) estimated that at least 7,130 frogs per year are transported into New South Wales, Australia in shipments of bananas, of which at least 70% are released at the point of destination. Hardman (2001; cited in Obendorf 2005) surveyed commercial banana wholesalers and retailers in the Hobart area, Tasmania, and estimated that 28-90 frogs per year were found (and that more had likely escaped detection) in Hobart alone, just in banana boxes. Furthermore, 73% of Hardman's (2001) survey respondents stated that frogs found in produce were either kept by employees or released into surrounding urban areas, wetlands, bushland, or parklands.

Yet another example of human-mediated transport of Bd comes from Tasmania. Within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, Bd distribution is strongly associated with the presence of gravel roads (Pauza and Driessen 2008). In particular, gravel roads are regularly sprayed down by trucks using water from local wetlands; this water then runs off into wetlands adjacent to the gravel road (Pauza and Driessen 2008). Also, moist soil is transported to use in road maintenance. All of these activities have the potential to move Bd zoospores and/or Bd-infected amphibian adults/tadpoles into new areas. (Pauza and Driessen 2008).

Additionally, climate change can potentiate Bd's spread indirectly; as temperatures have warmed, many amphibian species (e.g., Bustamante et al. 2005; Raxworthy et al. 2008) as well as plant, insect, and other animal species are expanding (or shifting) their elevational range upwards (for a general review on climate change-induced elevational range expansion see Parmesan 2006). Amphibian species that can harbor chytrid infections without succumbing to disease may introduce Bd into new areas as they move upwards in elevation (Seimon et al. 2006). In the Peruvian Andes, recent deglaciation has allowed amphibian colonization of high-altitude ponds at record elevation levels; one anuran species (Pleurodema marmoratum) that has colonized these ponds tests positive for Bd but shows no signs of chytridiomycosis, while another colonizing species that tests positive for Bd (Telmatobius marmoratus) has experienced die-offs (Seimon et al. 2006).
So to recap:

- No, you don't need to refrain from searching for or even handling amphibians out of fear that you'll be spreading Bd thereby. At least, not according to the evidence. (People are of course free to apply less rational thought processes to this or any other question, just as they wish. ;) )

- But yes, you should use good hygiene while in and when returning from the field. That'll help keep you healthy and your equipment in good condition even if it does little or nothing for the herps involved.

Not interested in any arguments (let alone fights), but just trying to help keep people properly informed...

Gerry

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Re: NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

Post by justinm » March 20th, 2015, 6:04 am

Recent studies show that Chytrid has been present in North America since the 1880's. Furthermore it's been found in every county of Illinois. 15 soil samples were taken per county. Everyone of them tested positive for Chytrid. Dr. Travis Wilcoxen did an interesting study on Chytrid, that was eye opening for me. I will see if I can get a copy from him. At any rate it's here, it's been here and it's not what you think it is.

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Re: NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

Post by jonathan » March 20th, 2015, 6:28 am

That is very believable to me Justin, and I am interested to hear more.

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Re: NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

Post by justinm » March 20th, 2015, 6:36 am

Jonathan,

It's my best guess I won't say hypothesis, that Chytrid contributes to high mortality in stressed populations. I don't think it's the only cause for the mass die offs we've seen, but could certainly contribute. I'm hoping that Dr. Wilcoxen gets back to me soon. His talk was really mind blowing and made me rethink all of the Chytrid discussions and conclusions.

Justin Michels

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Re: NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

Post by justinm » March 20th, 2015, 7:37 am

If anyone is interested in the papers please email me and I'll forward what I've been given on the topic.

Justin dot Michels at Yahoo dot com.

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ZantiMissKnit
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Re: NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

Post by ZantiMissKnit » March 20th, 2015, 9:01 am

I used to handle everything (non-venomous, of course) up until within the past five years, when it was pointed out to me the harm I could be doing. I now try to keep my amphibian handling policy to "wet hands only", and, when having to move a salamander to replace a rock, I use a nearby leaf to scoop the animal up and move it. My guess is that, if the leaf is in the same vicinity, the salamander may have already come in contact with it. We do have a small container for aquatics, which we bring inside and clean/disinfect upon returning home. We usually don't visit multiple sites in a day.

In general, I try to get the picture and leave the animal be within 5 minutes. Sometimes it's a little more; sometimes a little less, but everything gets released after being photographed. If an animal isn't cooperating and I get crappy pictures, so be it. I do my best to let the animal take the lead as to how much they are willing to tolerate.

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Bryan Hamilton
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Re: NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

Post by Bryan Hamilton » March 21st, 2015, 1:53 pm

I believe PARC and USGS both have pretty good decontamination protocols. I'll see if I can dig them up. I think that it would be easy and wise for NAFHA to adopt one of these that's already established. I was on a working group that was trying to come up something universal that would apply to reptiles and amphibians. I'll see if I can find the SOP.

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Bryan Hamilton
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Re: NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

Post by Bryan Hamilton » March 25th, 2015, 9:50 am

A paper just came out suggesting that chytrid can be present in rain.

Kolby, J., S. Ramirez, L. Berger, D. Griffin, M. Jocque, and L. Skerratt 2015. Presence of amphibian chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) in rainwater suggests aerial dispersal is possible. Aerobiologia:1-9.


While I still think NAFHA should adopt a decontamination protocol, I would not favor a hands off policy.

Jimi
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Re: NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

Post by Jimi » April 30th, 2015, 10:21 am

The title of this thread is a bit provocative, but it does suggest the desirability of a broader discussion which is beginning here, of some basic biosecurity threats and remedies. Reptiles too, not just amphibs. And perhaps not just biosecurity, but other aspects of animal welfare and our own appearances-management.

For example - just talking biosecurity - some squamates get bagged or boxed for photos. Whose bags or boxes? Are they "clean enough"? What does that even mean? What about handling tools? Same questions. What is the risk (probability * consequence) of spreading e.g., IBD, SFD, OPMV, or arthropod vectors of God-knows-what with unsecured bags or tools?

I don't want to be a kill-joy but I see some things that make me a little less happy about promoting "organized field herping" (an uncomfortable position, being a chapter "conservation officer"). I think there are some pretty easy fixes. The first question is, do others even see any problems like I do? Judging by some of the comments here so far e.g. this below, I think some do. (These are many of the same things that degrade my enthusiasm for promoting or attending NAFHA events.)
I'm strongly in favor of reducing the stress on animals for the purpose of photography. That includes both reptiles and amphibians, but especially amphibians, because they are more sensitive for reasons beyond just the spread of disease. And not only direct handling but...

* Forcing an animal to sit through a 15-60 minute photography session...sometimes 4-5 times in a row
* Repeatedly poking an animal with a stick until it adopts a certain pose
* Purposely tiring/stressing the animal until it gives up and poses
* Cooling the animal until it moves at the desired slowness
* Keeping the animal in a box overnight so you can photograph it in the right light

I don't think NAFHA should adopt a ban on any of these practices. But I think we should seriously think about out own practices and what we encourage others to do.
I'd like to see drafting, editing, & adoption of some voluntary best practices for NAFHA events and solo outings. Bryan, if you could locate that protocol work you mentioned, perhaps it would be a place to start. I would be willing to help. Perhaps some enthusiastic yet judicious photographers could also help with this drafting & editing.

cheers,
Jimi

ThomWild
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Re: NAFHA - Hands off Amphibs policy?

Post by ThomWild » April 30th, 2015, 1:40 pm

I didn't take the time to find the online version but I know the PARC Inventory and Monitoring guide includes an appendix (VI i believe) with the protocol for the decontamination of field gear.

-Thomas

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