Sunday, December 11, 2011

Hellbender on Survival

Bouncing Baby Hellbender- St. Louis Zoo
For those who don't have access to this Springfield News-Leader article, here is some good news about a threatened Ozark species.  The St. Louis Zoo, in cooperation with the Missouri Department of Conservation, has successfully bred an Ozark Hellbender in captivity for the first time.  The event occurred on November 15 and since then there have been 62 more births and there are 120 eggs to go.  National Geographic has more information on the breeding facility.

This endangered species occurs in only these few counties in Missouri and Arkansas.  Ozark Hellbenders have a long lifespan but a very low reproductive rate.  Currently less than 590 individuals are estimated to be living in the wild.

Ozark Hellbender- Jeff Briggler
According to a report by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the reasons for extinction concerns are multiple.  They require clear water in fast moving streams and have suffered from pollution and silting in of their native streams and the increased damming of rivers in recent decades. 

Their biggest threat is a chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, which has been found in all the wild Missouri populations.  Probably brought here from the importation of African clawed frogs, it is causing disease in many amphibian populations.  It can be spread by the feathers of birds and by bullfrogs which carry it but are relatively immune to its effects.  It has been the cause of 75% of deaths in the St. Louis Zoo’s captive population of Ozark Hellbenders.

More information on the endangered Ozark Hellbender and its more common Eastern Hellbender cousin is at Wikipedia.
Update: January 2012 on NPR.

1 comment:

  1. Bob,
    Yet another reason for you to come over and visit me in Booger (Douglas) County. We can go out and kayak some of these clear Ozark streams and look for Cryptobranchus. I understand they taste just like chicken.