chinese salamander

Giant Salamander Found In Chinese Cave Is 200 Years Old

A giant salamander found alive in a Chinese cave is estimated to be 200-years-old and weigh about 114 pounds. The very unusual discovery of the “critically endangered” salamander has thrilled conservationists, who have long feared for the survival of the species. The salamander is about four-and-a-half feet long. Some members of the Andrias davidianus species can grow up to six feet long, but sightings of such large salamanders in the wild have become extremely rare.

When raised in captivity, these giant Chinese salamanders typically live about 50 years. The salamander was removed from its remote cave home and placed in an animal care facility. Although some were disturbed by the decision to place the rare reptile in captivity, other wildlife experts maintain the relocation was done for the good of the species. Over the course of the past five decades, the Andrias davidianus population has experienced an 80 percent decline.

The giant salamander species has suffered, like many animals, from habitat destruction often caused by human encroachment. The species has also become the target of poachers who seek the fill orders for the reptile which is considered a dining delicacy in some regions of Asia.

Giant Salamander Found Alive In Chinese Cave Is 200 Years Old

The Chinese salamanders are so sought after for their meat and skin that a 3-day festival is held in the city of Zhangiiajie to raise awareness about the health benefits offered by the reptile, Yahoo News reports. The travel and tourism for the Hunan province touted the festival as a celebration of the cuisine and products generated by the giant salamanders. Chefs participated in a cook-off during the Zhangiiajie festival in an effort to prove they could create the most delicious dishes from the corpses of the critically-endangered salamander.

“There is a very real risk that promoting increased consumption of giant salamanders will lead to increase demand that cannot be met from farmed sources — with catastrophic consequences for the last surviving wild populations,” Richard Thomas, of the wildlife trade monitoring group Traffic, said.

Although there is reportedly no scientific evidence to support claims that the reptile aids in skin and heart health, ancient Chinese medicine recipes maintain that using the salamander’s flesh to make medicine and skin products and consuming its meat are beneficial to humans.

Chinese Giant Salamander Is The Largest Amphibian In The World

Chinese law prohibits the slaughter of the endangered reptiles in the wild, but does allow the killing of privately raised salamanders. Exactly how the Chinese government tracks and records the salamanders raised on farms and sold for their meat and skin remains unclear. Earlier this year, a government scandal erupted when it was revealed that Shenzhen officials used about $850 worth of public money to serve gourmet dishes created from the giant salamander at a banquet. The headline-generating dinner highlighted the growing black market which exists for meat from the rare and endangered reptile.

Because the giant salamanders have become such rare finds due to the drastic drop in population, poachers have begun to use both insecticides and “electrofishing” to capture the ancient creatures — and wreaking havoc on the ecosystem in the process. Some folks hoping to cash in on the salamander trade are trying to raise the massive salamanders on farms. Several wildlife studies indicate that the salamander farms have caused diseases, which develop on the farms, to spread to the native wild population, the BBC notes.

What do you think about the discovery of the giant salamander in the Chinese cave and the species’ struggle for survival?

[Image via Shutterstock]