Chinese giant salamander conservation

Chinese Giant Salamander

The Chinese giant salamander is ranked second of more than 4,000 amphibians on the EDGE amphibians list, which prioritises Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) species for conservation attention.

The Chinese giant salamander has been identified as the EDGE amphibian most in need of conservation action.

Why we are there

The Critically Endangered Chinese giant salamander is the world’s largest living amphibian, reaching lengths of more than 1.8m. It belongs to a small and ancient group of salamanders that diverged from their closest relatives during the Jurassic period over 170 million years ago.

Although revered by the Chinese for thousands of years, Chinese giant salamanders are threatened today by over-harvesting for human consumption. In China, salamander farming has been encouraged and is an important economic activity in some areas. It is believed that salamanders are taken from the wild and farmed as a luxury food item, and that this over-harvesting has had a catastrophic effect on the wild population, which is estimated to have declined by 80% since 1960. Disease and the destruction and degradation of the streams and pools they inhabit are also having a negative impact.

China is a country experiencing a large economic boom and escalating levels of biodiversity loss, making conservation of the environment increasingly important, especially that of water resources and freshwater systems. The Chinese giant salamander is a 'flagship' species for China's freshwater river systems. Efforts to conserve it will play a vital role protecting the region’s habitats and biodiversity, as well as freshwater resources for the people of China.

Key achievements and goals

ZSL brought local and international stakeholders together in 2010, to identify what evidence is required to inform the conservation of wild populations of Chinese giant salamanders. This evidence is now being gathered by ZSL and partner organizations, the Kunming Institute of Zoology, Shaanxi Normal University and Guiyang University, with support from the Darwin Initiative:

  • Range-wide ecological and community interview surveys to establish the current distribution and threats facing wild Chinese giant salamanders and to build an evidence base for long-term monitoring
  • Genetic analysis to understand the relationship between salamanders in different river systems and farms.
  • Working with farmers to improve husbandry and biosecurity measures to reduce harvesting of wild salamanders and prevent disease spreading from farmed animals to wild populations
  • Establishing a conservation breeding facility in China
  • Raising awareness among key stakeholders and the general public

Also, we have strengthened the capacity of in-country partner organisations to undertake long-term conservation of this iconic species by training four Chinese EDGE Fellows.

Project information

Key species

Chinese giant salamander, second on the EDGE amphibians list and Critically Endangered 

People involved

  • Andrew Cunningham manages the Chinese Giant Salamander project
  • Shu Chen is the EDGE Fellow who coordinates the project 'A sustainable future for Chinese giant salamanders'

Partners and sponsors

  • Shaanxi Normal University
  • Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Gardens
  • Kunming Institute of Zoology.

Kindly funded by:

  • The Darwin Initiative
  • The National Ministry of Education, P. R. China
  • The National Natural Science Foundation of China
  • Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong
  • Mohamed bin Zayed, Species Fund
  • USFWS - Amphibians in Decline Fund
  • European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA)
  • IUCN Save Our Species
  • Synchronicity Earth


Find out more on the Chinese Giant Salamander Conservation website and EDGE website or on the Facebook page A sustainable future for Chinese giant salamanders.


Find out more about the fascinating Chinese giant salamander and the conservation work ZSL are doing to help save this Critically Endangered species.

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A screengrab from the Go for Salamander video

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