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Policy Brief for Giant Chinese Salamander

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Submitted By Smckee
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April 3, 2017

Policy Brief on Chinese Giant Salamander

An article on the National Geographic website called: 4 Foot Salamander arrives in London as Face of New Conservation effort grabbed my attention and my selection to discuss the threats that face Chinese Giant Salamander. This memo includes information from the article: Development of the Chinese giant salamander Andrias davidianus farming industry in Shaanxi Province, China: conservation threats and opportunities.
The Chinese Giant Salamander, the largest amphibian, is classified as critically endangered by the IUCN red list (IUCN 2012). Since the 1950s, the species population has dropped significantly. Its main threat is overexploitation for human consumption. The Chinese Giant Salamander farming industry adds increased threat including infectious disease and loss of genetic integrity (Murphy et al. 2000).
The Chinese Giant Salamander is one of three living species in the family, Cryptobranchidae, which is over 170 million years old. The Chinese Giant Salamander is especially important for conservation because this amphibian has one of the longest family lineages alive today. The Chinese Giant Salamander is considered a delicacy in China. Although the Chinese Giant Salamander farming industry is only about a decade old, it is extremely detrimental to the species. It has an estimated population decline of more than 80% in three generations with a generation time of approximately 15 years (Gang et al. 2004). These farms cannot contribute to the population because many of them are inbred which decreases genetic variability and birthing of weaker individuals. Disease such as ranaviruses spread throughout the farm, which can become detrimental to the wild population.
The Chinese Giant Salamander is listed on Appendix I of CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). This does little to help the species though, because it is mainly sold only in China. It is a class II protected species in China and is listed in the China Red Data Book as critically endangered. Though protected, China does not enforce its laws, because it also needs the economic contributions these farms provide. Significant populations mostly reside in wilderness reserves especially focused on the conservation of these amphibians such as Mount Wuyi and Zhangjiajie Giant Salamander Nature Reserve. These reserves, however, also have population decrease and endure pressure from increasing development around it (Gang et al. 2004). There are a number of breeding programs in place, but they are mostly to meet market demands. In the past, the local government has encouraged the release of captive salamanders to boost wild populations. This plan wasn’t helpful, because released salamanders were not screened for disease, there were no genetic testing to see if they were suitable for the environment, and there was no monitoring of them to see whether it was effective or not.
Some conservation efforts might include keeping the wild and captive salamanders separated. Improvement in biosecurity and disease control measures on captive populations will increase survivorship of wild populations. In addition, no more wild salamanders should be captured and brought to a farm. The farms need to breed their captive ones after they have removed the threat of disease.

References Bates, M. (2014, December 18). 4-Foot Salamander Arrives in London as Face of New Conservation Effort. Retrieved April 3, 2016.
CUNNINGHAM,A.A.,TURVEY,S.T.,ZHOU,F.,MEREDITH,H.M.R.,WEI, G., LIU, X., SUN, C., WANG, Z. & WU, M. et al. (2015) Development of the Chinese giant salamander Andrias davidianus farming industry in Shaanxi Province, China: conservation threats and opportunities. Oryx.
Gang, L., Baorong, G. & Ermi, Z. 2004. Andrias davidianus. In: IUCN 2004. 2004 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. . Downloaded on 3 April 2016.
IUCN (2012) IUCN Red List of Threatened Species v. 2012.2. Http:// www.iucnredlist.org [accessed 3 April 2016].
Murphy,Robert W., Fu, Jinzhong, Upton, Darlene E., De Lema, Thales, and Zhao, Er-Mi. 2000. Genetic variability among endangered Chinese giant salamanders, Andrias davidianus. Molecular Ecology 9(10). 1539. Accessed online http://www.uoguelph.ca/~lacerta/ME91539-47.pdf on 4/3/16.…...

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