Chinese giant salamander

A Chinese giant salamander arrives at ZSL London Zoo

What they look like: The Chinese giant salamander (Andrias davidianus) is the world's largest amphibian, reaching up to 1.8 metres in length! 

Animal facts: 

  • Chinese giant salamanders descended from an ancient group of salamanders that lived over 170 million years ago. 
  • To compensate for their relatively poor eyesignt, salamanders have sensory nodes on their body, which detect vibrations in their environment. 
  • Adult Chinese giant salamanders can absorb oxygen directly through their porous skin. Its wrinkled, baggy appearance increases the overall surface area for oxygen absorption. 
  • The ying and yang symbols are thought to have been based on two salamanders intertwined. 

What they eat: They eat worms, crustaceans, insect larvae and small  vertebrates, such as fish and frogs. 

Where they live: They live in forested hill streams in central, south-western and southern China. 

Threats: Sadly, both habitat loss and and demand for these animals as luxury meat in their homeland are threatening their future and they are Critically Endangered in the wild. 

ZSL's conservation work: 

Chinese giant salamanders are a high-priority species for our EDGE - Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered - conservation programme, which puts unique and threatened species at the forefront of conservation attention. 

ZSL has been working in China with Chinese giant salamanders since 2010. In 2018, research carried out by ZSL and partners was published after conducting the most extensive wildlife survey seen in China to date, providing first-hand evidence of the desperate plight faced by Chinese giant salamanders. 

While Chinese legislation prohibits the harvesting of wild populations of the species, the country’s Ministry of Agriculture supports widespread releases of farmed animals as a conservation measure. However, this approach carries some risks. If the health and origin of these salamanders isn't assessed before they're released, it increases the risk of disease and cross-breeding. 

The next step for us is to identify areas of China where different Chinese giant salamanders still exist. We can then recommend the Chinese Government provides increased protection in these areas, as well as allowing farm-bred salamanders to undergo genetic and health screenings before release. 

We also need to develop a species actin plan with local partners, and engage local communities in our work. Read more about our conservation work

Visit our Chinese giant salamander at ZSL London Zoo