Image of Chinese giant salamander

Image of Chinese giant salamander


Four juveniles were collected from the spring at the mouth of the cave by a local resident who lives about 200 meters from the Cave. Her family kept the salamanders in a pool in their yard for four years, feeding them gold fish. The four individuals now weigh about 2.0 to 2.5 kilograms each. We took two of the individuals to Kunming. The cave is the water supply for the town and the mouth of the cave is too small for people to enter to capture an unknown small number of adults. Juveniles swim out of the cave each January and, if found by residents of the town of 35,000 people, are collected and raised for food. According to the mayor of the town, between 50 and 100 juveniles are caught each year. There are no Andrias farms in the town and the people just keep them until they want to eat them or someone wealthy comes to the town to buy one. The residents are mostly Yi Minority. Zili Fang, the Deputy Director of the Sichuan Department of Environment has known about this population for over 15 years. He made arrangements for us to meet the Mayor who took us to the house where the four salamanders were kept. The small river, starting about 20 meters from the mouth of the cave is extremely polluted and silted. No salamanders have been seen for many years anywhere except the mouth of the cave. This river is a tributary of the huge Yangtze River where Andrias are now completely extinct. According to Zili Fang there are less than a dozen wild populations left in Sichuan. All are thought to be quite small and all are associated with clear streams in the immediate vicinity of caves or in small tributaries of the Yangtze that flow out of uninhabited mountains. We think the Small Fish Cave population consists of only one or two adult pairs based on the small number of juveniles that are found each January.

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2012 Theodore Papenfuss
Theodore Papenfuss
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