The critically endangered Chinese Giant Salamander may have become extinct in the Mayanghe nature reserve in Guizhou province, a recent field study has found.
Reaching 5.9 feet (180cm) long, Andrias davidianusis is considered the largest amphibian in the world. The species was put on the critically endangered list after populations were reduced by more than 80% to due to dwindling habitat, pollution and over-exploitation, with many of the wild salamanders being poached for food or traditional Chinese medicine.
It is believed by some to have an anti-aging effect when consumed.
In January, a group of Chinese police officers were photographed by journalistsdining on the endangered species at a luxury banquet in the southern city of Shenzhen. The photos caused a public outcry and resulted in suspension for 14 of the officers.
In an effort to better quantify the remaining populations and provide the foundation for further studies, researchers from the Imperial College of London worked with the Ecological Research Center at Guiyang University to conduct fieldwork at 3 nature reserves – Fanjingshan, Leigongshan and Mayanghe.
Collecting sightings reports and collating data using the local communities, they determined that things are looking worse for the giant salamander population.
“Although Fanjingshan and Leigongshan are still priority sites for salamander conservation, few recent sightings were recorded in either reserve, and respondents considered that salamanders had declined locally at both reserves,” the study, Using local ecological knowledge to assess the status of the critically endangered Chinese giant salamander Andrias Davidianus in Guizhou Province, China, said.
“The species may already be functionally extinct at Mayanghe.”
Mayanghe was one of 14 nature reserves established to help revitalize the giant salamander population.
But even as wild populations dwindle, there is some hope on the horizon for the subdued amphibian. China is building a 10.83 million yuan (1.35 million U.S. dollars) breeding center in Jiangxi province which is expected to produce 60,000 giant salamanders annually.
The study was published online by Oryx conservation journal in March.
China to axe commercial logging of natural forests by 2020
As China’s policies shift to restoring the environment after years of heavy production, the country plans to stop all commercial logging of natural forests by 2020, the central government recently announced.
With around 49.92 million cubic meters of natural forests harvested per year, Helilongjiang was the first of the country’s provinces to set the goal in April 2014. The policy has now been applied to the whole country, Xinhua News Agency reported on Wednesday.
The move is expected to increase China’s forested areas by 100 million mu (6.7million hectares).
The announcement also outlined a plan to reduce harvesting of natural forest by the country’s 4855 state plantations by 20 percent in 2020.