The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has led research into the effects of farms on wild Chinese giant salamander program. They have found that the farms are increasing the extinction risk instead of supporting it.
Working with Shaanxi Normal University in Xian 43 farms were surveyed across China to investigate the Chinese giant salamander farming university. They also worked with the Shaanxi Province Fisheries Office.
While it is only a decade old the industry is home to millions of salamanders and makes a major contribution to the rural economy in China.
It provides numerous benefits to the species but is also a threat to their survival. The study found that illegally poached salamanders are being used to supplement the farmed population but they often fail to breed. The salamanders are kept in crowded conditions and this promotes devastating disease outbreaks. Untreated wastewater from these farms is also polluting local rives when it is discharged into them. This is passing on diseases into the wild population.
When salamanders are traded across the country their locally-adapted genetic strains change and these animals become unsuitable for reintroduction.
Professor Andrew Cunningham, lead author of the paper and a Professor of Wildlife Epidemiology for ZSL said, “The findings from our study identify measures that need to be taken to ensure the sustainability of Chinese giant salamander farming while also reducing threats to the remaining animals in the wild. With better farming practices, the Chinese giant salamander farming industry has the potential to benefit, rather than threaten, their conservation.”
Co-author and Senior Research Fellow at ZSL, Dr Samuel Turvey said, “We recommend complete separation of farmed and wild salamander populations, supported by the enforcement of existing legislation to stop the continued capture of wild individuals. Improved farming methods are required to remove any need to poach wild individuals, reduce disease risks to both farmed and wild salamanders, and to prevent genetic pollution of the wild salamanders.”
Categorised as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature these salamanders have declined by 80% in the past 30 years. They are seen as a number one priority for international conservation on the Evolutionarily Distinct and Global Endangered (EDGE) list produced by ZSL.
The United Kingdom’s only Chinese giant salamander is housed at ZSL London Zoo. He is named Mr Wu after a project partner in China. The one metre long salamander arrived in London in late November last year.
Photo Credit: London Zoo
Read the full research paper here-