Media Advisory: Smithsonian's National Zoo Opens Japanese Giant Salamander Breeding Center

July 27, 2010

Opening of the National Zoo’s Japanese giant salamander breeding facility

Thursday, July 22
10:30 a.m.

Reptile Discovery Center
3001 Connecticut Avenue N.W.
(Park in Lot B)

Ichiro Fujisaki, ambassador, Embassy of Japan in the United States
Eva Pell, Under Secretary for Science, Smithsonian Institution
Dennis Kelly, director, Smithsonian’s National Zoo
Ed Bronikowski, senior curator, Smithsonian’s National Zoo

In order to reserve parking, please RSVP for this event by noon, Wednesday, July 21.

They are big. Some say they are ugly. And they are now proudly showing their faces that only a mother could love at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. They are Japanese giant salamanders—a gift from the City of Hiroshima Asa Zoological Park that has united two cultures in an international conservation effort to study the species. Japanese giant salamanders, or oosanshouo (OOH-sahn-show-uuh-ooh), are listed as “near threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

These salamanders can grow up to 5 feet long and have emerged as the flagship species for salamander conservation as scientists and conservationists struggle to combat a global amphibian crisis. This species has not been bred outside of Japan in more than 100 years, but the Zoo is now establishing a long-term breeding program in the United States. In addition to studying how Japanese giant salamanders reproduce, Zoo scientists will use this generous gift to learn about the chytrid fungus that is lethal to some amphibian species but does not seem deadly to the Japanese giant salamander. In this way, these salamanders may contribute not only to their own species’ survival but to the survival of amphibians around the globe.