Reptile, amphibian regulations to soon change following efforts of Topeka Zoo

13 News at Six
Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 2:25 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Reptile and amphibian regulations in the Sunflower State are set to change within a matter of weeks following efforts of the Topeka Zoo and a vote from the Kansas Wildlife and Parks Commission.

The Topeka Zoo announced on Tuesday, Sept. 12, that it joined State Legislators and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks to achieve a milestone conservation effort that will significantly reduce the “take limits” on reptiles and amphibians in the Sunflower State. The move also provides enforcement and support for the new law.

In 2019, the zoo said it created a plan to host the first-in-Kansas survey of ornate box turtles to create a solid baseline on where numbers stood in the state. The move was in response to its belief that numbers were in serious decline - based in large part on the poaching of those turtles from the wild for the illegal international pet trade.

In 2022, zoo officials said they worked with the Kansas House of Representatives to create a level of protection for these turtles across the state. Thus, House Bill 2479 was introduced. During the bill’s hearings, the KDWP offered to change the state regulation on the collection of ornate box turtles to significantly reduce the number of box turtles one can legally collect from the wild.

According to the zoo, KDWP proposed the regulation change include a reduction in take limits on all reptiles and amphibians in Kansas - not just ornate box turtles. After 5 years, the Kansas Wildlife and Parks Commission formally and unanimously voted to adopt the changes 115-20-2.

“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.

Before the Sept. 7 vote, the zoo said the “take limit” was defined as the limit of reptiles or amphibians any person who had a Kansas hunting permit for any Kansas wild game species can legally take from the wild and possess. The limit used to be five of any species - and all at the same time if they chose.

Now, the change has reduced that amount to no more than two of any single reptile species and no more than five of any amphibian species at one time. This rule is set to apply to a household - not just a single person.

“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,” said a spokesperson for the zoo.

The Zoo noted that the changes will take effect no more than two months from the vote with a chance it could take effect even sooner.