Unsustainable harvesting of wild species has contributed to massive population declines over the past 50 years. Today, these human-sized salamanders are farmed intensively for their meat. The species is currently listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN, and is the most threatened representative of the three surviving cryptobranchid species.
The Chinese Giant Salamander is highly prized in China due to its delicate taste, and its body parts are used in traditional Chinese medicines, leading to unsustainable and unregulated harvesting from the wild despite the species' listing on Appendix I of CITES and as a Class II State Major Protected Wildlife Species in China. This species has suffered an estimated 80% decline in numbers since the 1950s. It is now extensively farmed to meet the market demand for its meat, but there is a marked lack of conservation effort to protect this species in the wild from threats such as continued collection for the farming industry and the risk of virulent diseases spreading from farmed to wild populations (such as the lethal chytrid fungus).
This SOS - Save Our Species project was implemented by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) as part of its EDGE of Existence Programme to conserve the world's most extraordinary threatened creatures.
The locally-led long-term conservation project actively engaged Chinese Giant Salamander farms in the Qinling Mountains to help them mitigate the impact of disease within the farms, prevent the spread of disease to wild amphibian populations and reduce wild harvesting of the Chinese Giant Salamander.
The main project objectives were to improve capacity-building of conservation professionals, increase public awareness of the threats to the wild Chinese Giant Salamanders, and to reduce the harvesting of wild animals.
There were also a need to build upon the collaboration of the key stakeholders, all of whom are keen to engage in a dynamic conservation project to secure the future of this remarkable species.