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World's First Captive Hellbender Breeding (06:48)

Host: Sarah Leon with Jeff Ettling

Ozark hellbender (click to view larger)
Larval Ozark hellbender.
Photo credit: Mark Wanner


In November 2011, the Saint Louis Zoo's Ron Goellner Center for Hellbender Conservation and the Missouri Department of Conservation announced that Ozark hellbenders have been successsfully bred in captivity—a first for the species. This decade-long collaboration has yielded 165 baby hellbenders to date.

Rivers in south-central Missouri and adjacent Arkansas once supported up to 8,000 Ozark hellbenders. Today, fewer than 600 exist in the world—so few that the amphibian was added to the federal endangered species list in October 2011.

Due to these drastic declines, captive propagation has become a priority in the long-term recovery of the species. Once these captive-bred larvae are 3 to 8 years old, they can then be released into their natural habitat—the Ozark aquatic ecosystem.

Last updated: July 15, 2013