By Antoine Blua
Found only in a tiny region of Iran, the Kaiser's spotted newt, or Luristan newt (Neurergus kaiseri), boasts a mosaic of black and white patches, turning to red-orange on its legs, belly, and spine.
But the newt's beauty threatens to be its downfall, with the number of mature wild individuals estimated to have dropped by 80 percent in recent years to fewer than 1,000, in large part due to a vibrant international pet trade aided by the Internet.
In a move that is hoped to help curtail the pet trade, the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting in Doha, Qatar, has endorsed an Iranian proposal to ban all international trade of wild-caught Kaiser's spotted newts.
Ernie Cooper, the Canadian representative of the wildlife trade monitoring agency TRAFFIC, attended the meeting of the United Nations body that ended on March 25.
He tells RFE/RL that the little-known Iranian salamander is a textbook example of what can happen to one species as a result of Internet trading.
"These animals sell maybe for $200-$300 a piece," he says. "Most people aren't willing to spend that kind of money for a salamander, but through the Internet, you can find the 200 or 300 people that are willing to spend that kind of money. So the Internet was absolutely instrumental in creating the market that was driving the illegal poaching and the smuggling of this species." More....