|Bouncing Baby Hellbender- St. Louis Zoo|
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|
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.