17 March 2011

Bronx Zoo raising rare salamanders to release into wild

Save the snot otters! No, too gross? What about save the devil dogs or the Allegheny alligators? They are all names for a rather unattractive, slimy critter also known as the eastern hellbender, a rare species of salamanders native to New York state that is in need of help right now.

The hellbenders are listed as a species of special concern in New York, where they are threatened by pollution and habitat destruction. Luckily, a couple of New York zoos are working to save the salamanders from extinction.

Scientists from the Buffalo Zoo collected eggs from western New York and hatched a passel of hellbenders in 2009. Now, 41 of the little guys are at the Bronx Zoo in a temperature controlled water tank being feed worms and krill. The zoo plans to release the snotty otters into the wild when they reach maturity, which will be in about 2 ½ years.

The pre-historic looking animals, with flattened heads and stubby legs, are the largest amphibian in North America and can grow up to 2 feet long, and live up to 30 years. They are nocturnal, extremely shy and prefer to hide underneath rocks at the bottom of streams. These little devils live up to some of their monikers as their skin contains toxic secretions. Oh, and they bite. But only if you piss them off.

Hmm, sounds like a New Yorker alright.

Robin Lawless | @robmlaw | email
Robin lives in New York City where she loves to check out all the vegan eateries. When she's not writing for TDIV, Robin enjoys taking dance lessons, reading, practicing yoga, hanging out with her cat Maggie, baking vegan treats, and volunteering at Catskill Animal Sanctuary. Feel free to add Robin as a friend on Facebook.

Photo credit: cc:flickr.com/photos/usfwssoutheast