AboutZoos, Since 2008


Bronx Zoo rein­tro­duces East­ern hell­ben­ders to the wild

pub­lished 22 August 2013 | mod­i­fied 28 June 2014

The Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Society’s Bronx Zoo is work­ing to save the East­ern hell­ben­der, one of the world’s largest species of sala­man­der, and has re-​introduced 38 ani­mals into streams in west­ern New York State.

Eastern hellbenderThe hell­ben­der head-​start pro­gram is a col­lab­o­ra­tion between the Bronx Zoo, the New York State Depart­ment of Envi­ron­men­tal Con­ser­va­tion, and the Buf­falo Zoo. The ani­mals were hatched at the Buf­falo Zoo in Octo­ber 2009 and raised at the Bronx Zoo’s Amphib­ian Prop­a­ga­tion Cen­ter, an off-​exhibit, bio-​secure facil­ity. The eggs were col­lected by the DEC from the Allegheny River drainage and the juve­niles returned to the same location.

Before being returned to the wild, each ani­mal was tagged under the skin with a tiny chip that can be used for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of indi­vid­u­als dur­ing future sur­veys and health assessments.

Don Boyer, Bronx Zoo Cura­tor of Her­petol­ogy, and Sarah Parker, Bronx Zoo Wild Ani­mal Keeper, trans­ported the hell­ben­ders and worked with DEC and Buf­falo Zoo staff to release the ani­mals. Each hell­ben­der was indi­vid­u­ally placed in the water under sub­merged rocks – opti­mal con­di­tions that will give them the best chance to thrive.

This col­lab­o­ra­tion under­scores the impor­tant con­tri­bu­tions zoos are mak­ing to the con­ser­va­tion of wildlife in their native habitat.
Jim Bre­heny, Direc­tor of the Bronx Zoo »

“We are proud to part­ner with the New York DEC and Buf­falo Zoo on this excit­ing release of East­ern hell­ben­ders into the wild,”he said.

Patri­cia Riexinger, Direc­tor of the Divi­sion of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources at the New York State Depart­ment of Envi­ron­men­tal Con­ser­va­tion said: “The hell­ben­der is an impor­tant part of our state’s aquatic bio­di­ver­sity and it’s clear that we have to take dra­matic steps to ensure its con­tin­ued pres­ence in New York. Numer­ous stud­ies over the past decade have shown that there are few young hell­ben­ders avail­able to join the breed­ing pop­u­la­tion. This ‘head-​starting’ pro­gram will enable us to release young hell­ben­ders back to the wild at a life-​stage that may enable them to sur­vive and thrive in New York. We deeply appre­ci­ate the sup­port of WCS, the Bronx Zoo and the Buf­falo Zoo as con­ser­va­tion part­ners in the recov­ery of this iconic salamander.”

Watch Bill Hop­kins, pro­fes­sor in the Depart­ment of Fish and Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion in the Col­lege of Nat­ural Resources and Envi­ron­ment at Vir­ginia Tech, talks about the east­ern hell­ben­der and their eco­log­i­cal importance:

New York State lists the hell­ben­der as a species of Spe­cial Con­cern. Pop­u­la­tions are declin­ing due to sev­eral fac­tors includ­ing dis­ease, pol­lu­tion, and habi­tat destruction.

Hell­ben­ders are fully aquatic and are usu­ally found in rocky, swift-​flowing streams. They hide under large rocks, have flat­tened heads and bod­ies, small eyes, and slimy, wrinkly skin. They are typ­i­cally a brown or reddish-​brown colour with a pale under­belly. A nar­row edge along the dor­sal sur­face of their tails helps pro­pel them through water. Also known as devil dogs, Allegheny alli­ga­tors, and snot otters, hell­ben­ders mea­sure nearly two feet in length as adults. Only two larger sala­man­der species are known to exist – the Japan­ese giant sala­man­der and the Chi­nese hell­ben­der – both can grow to up to six feet long.

(Source: WCS press release, 21.08.2013)

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