Topeka Zoo Celebrates Landmark Victory in Protecting Kansas Reptiles and Amphibians.

Together with State Legislators and Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, the Topeka Zoo & Conservation Center achieved a milestone conservation effort that will significantly reduce the “take limits” of all reptiles and amphibians in Kansas and provide enforcement to support the
change.  In 2019, the Topeka Zoo created a plan to conduct the first ever (in Kansas) survey of ornate box turtle population numbers to create some solid base line scientific information on where ornate box turtle numbers stood in our state. This was in response to the Zoo’s belief that
ornate box turtle numbers in Kansas were in serious decline, based in large part, to the poaching of those turtles from the wild for the illegal, international pet trade.  In 2022, the Topeka Zoo worked with the Kansas House of Representatives to establish a level of protection for ornate box turtles statewide, and House Bill (HB) 2479 was introduced. During the meeting of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee regarding HB 2479, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) offered to change the state regulation on collecting of ornate box turtles to significantly reduce the number of box turtles that can legally be collected from the wild by anyone.  KDWP proposed that the regulation change include a reduction in the “take” limits on all reptiles and amphibians in Kansas, as well as ornate box turtles.  After a five-year journey, the Kansas Wildlife and Parks Commission formally and unanimously voted on September 7, 2023, to adopt the changes to 115-20-2 that will significantly reduce the “take limits” of all reptiles and amphibians in Kansas and provide enforcement to support the change.  “Reducing how many reptiles and amphibians a registered hunter in Kansas could take from the wild down to only five total of all species combined, with a limit of no more than two of any reptile species is a huge new level of protection for all Kansas reptiles and amphibians,” said Dennis Dinwiddie, Topeka Zoo’s director of conservation and education.  Prior to September 7th, the “take limit” was defined as any person who had a Kansas hunting permit for any Kansas wild game species (deer, turkey, pheasant, quail, etc.) could legally take from the wild and possess up to five of any reptile or amphibian species in Kansas, and all at the same time if they so choose.  The change to the regulation will now make it illegal to remove from the wild, or possess, more
than five Kansas reptiles or amphibian species, with no more than two of any single reptile species and no more than five of any amphibian species.
This will apply to a limit per domicile, not just a limit per person.  The new regulation changes take effect no more than 60 days (about two months) from September 7th, 2023, with a chance it could take effect no more than 30 days (about four and a half weeks) from September 7th, 2023.  The Topeka Zoo extends its heartfelt appreciation to all those involved in spearheading this regulatory change, highlighting a steadfast commitment to animal conservation, and ensuring that future generations can experience the incredible diversity of reptiles and amphibians inhabiting Kansas.

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The Topeka Zoo & Conservation Center’s mission is to enrich the community through wildlife conservation and education with a commitment to ensure that everyone feels welcome and valued by striving to create an environment that is as diverse as the wild spaces they are trying to protect. Learn more about the Topeka Zoo & Conservation Center at topekazoo.org

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