WASHINGTON (CN) – The Ozark hellbender, the third largest species of giant aquatic salamander in the world, is endangered, in part by demand for the Arkansas native as a pet in Japan and China, according to a proposed listing decision from the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service.
The agency cites widespread advertisements for the species on the Internet, and magazine and newspaper classifieds offering up bounties for specimens, in its proposal. The demand is so high that Arkansas and Missouri restrict information on known locations of Ozark hellbenders, and no longer make location and survey information readily available to the public. For the same reason, the agency will not designate critical habitat for the salamander at this time.
Another factor in the decline of the hellbender in the White River system in Missouri and Arkansas is habitat degradation resulting from impoundments, ore and gravel mining, sedimentation, nutrient runoff, and nest site disturbance from recreational uses of the rivers.
In a related action, the agency proposes adding the hellbender to Appendix III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which requires member nations to track the trade of listed species and their parts. This would allow the agency to monitor international trade of the hellbender and to determine whether exports are occurring legally, under Arkansas and Missouri laws.