28 August 2013

Croaking Science: The Chinese Salamander: a Giant Problem

Becky Austin our Croaking Science Volunteer, finds out about the struggles of the great crested newts larger cousin in China.

The Chinese giant salamander, growing up to six feet in length, is the largest amphibian in the world. Though admittedly not the most attractive animal, it more than makes up for its looks with its enigmatic nature: this shy creature lives a nocturnal life in underwater caves and crevices. However, the elusive amphibian is now causing researchers plenty of concerns, as individuals in their natural habitat are becoming ever harder to find.
Before the 1980s, the Chinese giant salamander, Andrias davidianus, was abundant along the Yangtze, Yellow and Pearl rivers, but now is restricted to only a few areas where mountain streams remain undisturbed in protected nature reserves. The species is now listed as critically endangered on the IUCN red list, with numbers having fallen by 80% in the last 50 years.
For the past few decades the salamander has been hunted voraciously for the luxury food trade in China, where it is considered a delicacy. A kilogram of meat can fetch 100 US dollars on the market and is also in demand for traditional Chinese medicines. The situation has been made worse by increasing habitat fragmentation by dam production, deforestation and water pollution from mining industries.
To stall the Chinese giant salamander’s decline, conservation efforts are growing to save this unusual amphibian species from extinction. Projects include captive breeding programmes to release more individuals into the wild, and increasing the size and number of nature reserves where its habitat is still found. Hopefully these efforts can save it from the brink before it is too late.

Find out more:
You can find more facts and great images and videos of these wonderful animals at Arkive

What can you do to help?
Here in the UK, the Chinese giant salamander’s baby cousin, the great crested newt, is also suffering. The greatest cause of population decline is urban development, but fortunately reserves such as the Hampton Nature Reserve in Peterborough are working to save this species. You can help the cause by volunteering with Froglife at the nature reserve or on other projects - just follow this link to find out more: http://www.froglife.org/hnr/volunteer.htm

Wang, X., Zhang, K., Wang, Z., Ding, Y., Wu, W. and Huang, S. (2004). The decline of the Chinese giant salamander Andrias davidianus and its implications for its conservation. Oryx, vol. 38, pp.197-202.