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For Immediate Release: June 2, 2004


Three Snakes and Several Illegal Lizards in Custody

Honolulu - Three recent incidents have underscored concern about individuals importing, harboring and releasing illegal animals in the State. 

On May 21, 2004, inspectors from the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) and investigators from the Office of the Attorney General executed a search warrant on a Hawaii Kai residence and confiscated a four-foot-long albino kingsnake and a 12-inch-long collared lizard.  A confidential informant provided information that led to the seizure of the animals, which are illegal for individuals to possess in Hawaii. 

The owner of the animals, Shane Paul Quirk Stowell, of a Nohili Street address was issued two citations under HRS section 150A-7(b), which pertains to possession of prohibited and restricted animals.  Bail forfeiture for each citation is $1,000 if paid within seven days or $2,000 after seven days. 

Stowell told HDOA inspectors that the illegal animals were given to him in January 2004 by an acquaintance who has since left the state.

On May 28, an employee of the Honolulu Zoo found a cardboard box containing two snakes outside the front door of the employee's residence in Kapahulu.  The snakes have been identified as a 4-foot-long albino corn snake and a foot-long kingsnake.  The employee transported the snakes to the zoo, where zoo officials held the animals and called HDOA the following day to report the incident.

The third incident involves the apparent establishment of Madagascar giant day geckoes in a  neighborhood in Manoa.  On May 25, a resident reported a sighting of a large, green lizard with red spots.  HDOA inspectors responded to the home and captured a Madagascar giant day gecko measuring 10-inches long.  Inspectors revisited the area the next day and captured three more adult geckoes.  The recent captures bring the total of eight Madagascar day geckoes found in that area since 1997. 

The snakes and lizards are being safeguarded at the Plant Quarantine Branch.

"It is alarming that people continue to smuggle illegal animals into the State," said Sandra Lee Kunimoto, Chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture.  "The State is grateful to responsible citizens who report illegal animals, and by doing so help to protect Hawaii's unique ecosystem."

"More importantly, we implore those who have illegal animals to turn them in under our amnesty program and do not release these animals into the wild," Kunimoto added.

Under the amnesty program, illegal animals may be turned in to any HDOA Office, Honolulu Zoo or any Humane Society - no questions asked and no fines assessed.  Anyone with information on illegal animals should call the Plant Quarantine Branch at 832-0566 or the PEST HOTLINE at 586-PEST (7378).

Some individuals who have been caught with illegal snakes say they were reluctant to turn them in fearing that the animals will be killed. However, HDOA has a policy that animals turned in under amnesty will not be killed.  Through an agreement with the Honolulu Zoo, illegal reptiles are sent to a reptile farm in Florida where animals are placed into other zoos or educational institutions.  The Honolulu Zoo then benefits from this by obtaining other animals in exchange for display at the zoo.

Snakes and large reptiles have no natural predators in Hawaii and pose a serious threat to Hawaii's environment because they compete with native animal populations for food and habitat.  Many species also prey on birds and their eggs, increasing the threat to our endangered native birds.

Background information on the various animals:

The albino-form of the non-venomous California kingsnake (Lampropeltis sp.) is native to the western and southwestern U.S. The seized kingsnake is white and yellow in color with red eyes. Its diet in the wild consists of other snakes; however, while in captivity, it will readily take rodents. 

The collared lizard (Crotaphytus sp.) is grayish-green with yellow and dark markings.  These lizards are native to North America and may reach up to 13 inches in length.  It is a voracious predator whose diet consists of insects, other lizards, mice and sometimes snakes.  These lizards run very quickly on its hind legs, making it difficult to capture.

Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis sp.) are also non-venomous and depending upon the subspecies have banded variations of red and yellow surrounded by bands of black. It is often mistaken for the venomous coral snake.  Kingsnakes are found throughout the U.S. mainland and live in diverse habitats from rocky woods, deserts, swamps and prairies.  Their diet consists of mice, lizards, birds and their eggs, and other snakes.  They can grow up to almost seven feet in length.

Corn snakes (Elaphe guttata) are common in much of the U.S. mainland and northern Mexico.  These non-venomous snakes can grow more than six feet long with a normal diet of small mammals (mice and rats) and birds and their nestlings.

As the name suggests, Madagascar giant day geckoes (Phelsuma madagascariensis grandis) are native to Madagascar and surrounding islets. This species is bright green and robust with a red eye stripe that extends from the nostril to the eye.  Large variable red spots may also be present on the back. Adults average about 11 inches in length.


For more information, contact:

Janelle Saneishi
Public Information Officer
Hawaii Department of Agriculture
Phone: (808) 973-9560