Giant salamanders, adjudged to be ‘critically endangered‘ by the Zoological Society of London, are the largest species of amphibian in the world, growing up to 6ft in length.
Having been around for over 170 million years, they are also one of the oldest species on the planet, having co-existed with several species of dinosaurs but have suffered from a huge dip in population over the past thirty years with human consumption the major cause of this decline.
The Chinese giant salamander is considered to be a luxury food item in the country as well as an important source of traditional medicines, in spite of its rarity.
As they are slow and easy to hunt, catching the salamanders in nets is not a problem for Chinese poachers and they have been killed in droves – although they are now a protected species in China.
Unbelievable: The massive beast, which is coveted in China for its anti-aging properties, is measured
Observing: An attendant expert takes a look at the captive salamander. They are in real danger from poachers
The creatures tend to be most commonly found in rocky mountain streams and lakes with clear fast-running water, and are known to dine on crabs, lobsters and large fish.
The giant salamander holds a treasured place in Chinese mythology and has been nick-named ‘wa wa yu’ – or ‘baby fish’ – in Chinese because its distress call is said to sound like the cry of a baby.
The skin of the water-dwelling creature has been long said to have anti-ageing benefits for humans, although there is no scientific evidence whatsoever to support this claim.
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