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Keep your hands off Lorestan Newt.


Although it is the Caspian sturgeon that normally draws the concerns of conservationists, this week it was the spotted newt from Lorestan province that won international protection.

The occasion was Sunday's meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES, pronounced sy-teez), which has long been an advocate of restrictions on sturgeon fishing in the Caspian Sea.

But Sunday, the 175 nations meeting in Doha, Qatar, voted!--unanimously--to ban all international trade in Kaiser's spotted newt, a small salamander also called the Lorestan newt for its home.

In recent years, this cute little salamander has become popular with people who go gaga over exotic pets. About 200 of the newts are believed to be traded each year. But only about 1,000 survive in a tiny corner of Lorestan. The newt's habitat is a mere 10 square kilometers, little more than a park measuring 2 miles by 2 miles.

Its home is an area of highland streams that go dry in the summer, when the newt estivates. Estivation is the summer version of hibernation; the newt takes a months' long sleep during the hot and dry months.

A business based in Ukraine reportedly is the main marketer for the newt and it operates primarily over the Internet.

Despite the overwhelming vote to protect the newt, conservationists were generally irate over the Doha meeting, which they were calling No-ha because very little other than the newt won protection. The big effort was to protect Mediterranean corals used in expensive jewelry. A majority of countries voted to ban trade in those 31 corals, but not the two-thirds majority required for passage.
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Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Date:Mar 26, 2010
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