Re: NANFA-- Columbia trip gear

Steffen Hellner (
Wed, 07 Jan 2004 15:25:12 +0100

I think there is truth in both aspects. Surely an animal taken from the wild
has no value for its population anymore directly. Indirectly it can help
saving it by backing it up before a species or population is extinct. Of
course, again, the target must be to preserve the species in the wild. But
not solely.

Fishermen (not all of them, of course) and others without proper knowledge
and understanding of amphibia can harm a species like the hellbender way
more by the mentioned killing. This needs to be solved by information,
information, information. But it won4t eradicate such an acting totally.

I am aware that pet trade (legal or illegal) has contributed to the todays
situation as every specimen taken cannot be replaced by reproduction before
7 years due to reproduction and growth rate. There are reports of 100
hellbender taken from a single site in the 70th/80th. They were offered in
the pet trade for 15 to 50 USD. But its not only the hellbender, there are
wild Ambystomas and Newts offered for 2 to 6 USD in the US pet trade. This
supports a get-and-drop mentality. Wouldn4t it be better to restrict wild
collections and allow captive propagation instead? In Europe wild collecting
of salamanders since 1980 is highly restricted to science or monitoring
activities and there are many cb in the hobby.

The question is (and I am thinking about it continuously) if an additional
take of no more than 3 pairs for captive propagation will do more harm to a
population than justifiable? Seen in addition to the losses made by
pollution and killing. To me it is acceptable if the attempt is serious and
well prepared. Hellbender need a lot of space, special conditions, and a
huge amount of food. If one cannot offer ALL of this, my position is clear:
leave it. If yes, it can be a good contribution to the understanding of
captive propagation which still is not the standard but worked at e.g. at
Mammoth Spring hatchery, MO. I have put a request to there if it will be
possible to get offspring stock of the Ozark Hellbender from there.

I have no information about the nominate subspecies being bred in captivity.
There are numerous C. a. alleganiensis at zoos, institutes, universities but
I didn4t find information on breeding programs or attempts. There are group
activities in the field in GA, TN, SC and possibly elsewhere but not
propagation in captivity. I am convinced both has to be attempted to enhance
understanding and awareness of the hellbender and its threads.

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