SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Zoo is working to save an ancient amphibian species that lives 6,500 miles away.
The Center for Conservation and Research at San Antonio Zoo has been researching ways to reconnect populations of Japanese giant salamanders that have been separated by dams that have been built along Japan’s mountain streams and rivers.
Japanese giant salamanders are one of the largest amphibian species on earth. They can grow to more than five feet in length. They are only found in a few mountain streams in Japan and are classified as “near-threatened” with populations declining.
Human-built dams have restricted the salamanders from roaming freely and have trapped subpopulations, reducing the natural chances of the species to survive over time, the zoo said in a press release.
CCR at San Antonio Zoo funded a study to look at the natural movement patterns of the salamanders and another to study whether local villages would support the effort to implement salamander ladders, similar to ones that are used to help fish navigate dammed rivers. When the studies were completed, Japanese colleagues built a ladder to reconnect two formerly isolated salamander populations.
“These ancient amphibians needed our help,” said Dr. Dante Fenolio, VP of CCR at San Antonio Zoo. “We are ensuring that future generations have Japanese Giant Salamanders living alongside them, and we are working with the perfect people in Japan to help.”
CCR at San Antonio Zoo plans to implement more ladders over the next decade and fund additional research to help conserve the salamanders.
“San Antonio Zoo is working on over 245 conservation projects globally,” said Tim Morrow, President & CEO of San Antonio Zoo. “The Japanese Giant Salamander Project is certainly one to be proud of. It is a perfect example of how innovation, passion, and collaboration can truly make a difference for an entire species. Every ticket and membership sold at San Antonio Zoo helps contribute to efforts just like this, both locally and around the world.”
You can watch a video from the zoo about the conservation efforts below: