Open Spaces: California Tiger Salamanders Act as Amphibian Ambassadors

California Tiger Salamanders Act as Amphibian Ambassadors

By Ashley Cotter, USFWS

California tiger salamanders were recently at the center of a unique adoption effor out West and will soon become amphibian ambassadors at various locations throughout the Golden State.

This endangered amphibian depends on vernal pools for reproduction and is facing habitat loss.

Recently, we partnered with scientists at UC Davis to offer a special group of them new homes after the conclusion of a recent study.

The animals involved were born and raised in captivity at a lab on campus. Scientists created artificial ponds and watched the animals grow in order to try and better understand how environmental factors, like water levels, affect how the creatures develop. The study ended, but the salamanders had to remain in the lab.

ambassador
(Photo: Adam Clause/USFWS)

They could not be released back into the wild because they may have been exposed to contagions, such as the dangerous chytrid fungus, as they grew indoors. Thus, the need for the special adoption program.

Private citizens cannot adopt endangered species, so David Kelly, a biologist from our Sacramento Office, reached out to several zoos and organizations in order to find places outside of the lab for these amphibians to live.

"They're really kind of cute," he explained, adding that he hopes these creatures will be able to act as "little ambassadors" after they settle into their new homes.

The organizations adopting the salamanders include CuriOdyssey, the Oakland Zoo, Sacramento Splash, the Sacramento Zoo, the San Francisco Zoo, Swaim Biological, and Redding's Turtle Bay Exploration Park.

So be on the look-out and be sure to visit a California tiger salamander ambassador in the future!

Ashley Cotter is a summer intern in the Sacramento Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Last updated: June 21, 2012