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Conserving the Chinese giant salamander


Increase knowledge of wild salamander distribution, population and ecology, improve disease diagnostic and research capacity, develop a conservation genetics database and a conservation breeding centre.

Image | Chinese giant salamander | © International Cooperation Network for Giant Salamander Conservation

China - predominantly Shaanxi, Guizhou, Guangdong and Guangxi provinces

Species Background

The Chinese giant salamander is the largest amphibian in the world reaching lengths of up to 1.8m – the same as an adult human.  It is one of only three giant salamander species left in the world.  In China it lives in cool, fast flowing mountain rivers and lakes where it feeds predominantly on fish and crustaceans.  It is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List with only an estimated 50,000 individuals left in the wild, though this number is far from certain due to the lack of detailed knowledge.

Map & Range
Species Threats

The Chinese giant salamander is being threatened by a number of human induced threats including habitat destruction; degradation and fragmentation of habitat through the damning of rivers and water pollution.  It is also highly prized as a delicacy and within traditional medicine causing wild populations to suffer severe and unsustainable over harvesting.  Recent disease outbreaks in China's many salamander farms is another potential threat to wild populations via the release of untreated farm water effluent and unscreened farmed individuals.

Project actions

Capacity building: strengthen in-country research capacity in field survey protocols, conservation genetics and disease diagnostic capability through training 3 EDGE Fellows.

In situ monitoring:  undertake field and questionnaire surveys to create the first robust dataset of population distribution, relative abundance and threat distribution across key range areas; develop standardised long-term monitoring protocols.

Disease:  identify disease threats to wild and farmed populations; develop disease diagnostic and mitigation protocols for farmed populations; raise awareness of disease, biosecurity and quarantine issues within the farming community.

Conservation genetics:  develop methods and protocols for analysing genetic samples; collect and analyse genetic samples from across the wild population range; create a database and store for genetic samples to preserve genetic diversity.

Conservation breeding:  establish the first conservation breeding centre; develop conservation breeding protocols and a strategy for establishing further centres.

Awareness: hold a workshop to develop an awareness and education strategy to promote the status and needs of the Chinese giant salamander at a local, regional, national and international level; initiate that strategy; develop a global network of experts and organisations to aid the conservation of the salamander including engaging with the highest levels of government and advocacy in China.

  • The International Conservation Workshop for the Chinese Giant Salamander was held in Xi’an China from 31 May – 3 June 2010. It developed a Conservation Action Plan and implementation of the key recommendations is the focus of this project.
  • Work on increasing disease diagnostic and research capacity started in September 2010. EDGE Fellow Zhou Feng spent 45 days training at the Institute of Zoology in early 2011.
Project Collaborators

Logo for the Chinese giant salamander workshop

An adult Chinese giant salamander

A baby Chinese giant salamander

Possible wild salamander habitat in Sanguanmaio, Foping reserve

Project Funding Bodies