It’s bad enough when humans create endangered species through hunting, pollution and other activities. It’s even worse when they knowingly dine on one of the last of a species – just to show they can. That’s what happened in South China's Guangdong Province when 28 people, mostly police officials, ate a critically endangered Chinese giant salamander.
The Andrias davidianus is both the largest salamander and the largest amphibian in the world, reaching a length of almost 6 feet. There are only three recognized members of the Cryptobranchidae or giant salamander family – the Chinese giant salamander, the slightly smaller Japanese giant salamander (Andrias japonicus), and the much smaller North American hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis).
Besides these three, there have been reports since the 19th century of a Trinity Alps giant salamander in the Trinity Alps of northern California. The Japanese giant salamander is considered by some to be the inspiration for the kappa – a Japanese turtle-shelled reptilian cryptid that is believed to live in rivers and reputed to kidnap children and drown swimmers. The first giant salamander fossil discovered in 1726 was mistakenly identified as a Homo diluvii testis – a human who drowned in the biblical flood.
The Chinese giant salamander is critically endangered (the highest risk category before extinction) because of loss of habitat, pollution and humans who kill them for unproven medicinal treatments.
Or just because they can. Three journalists who infiltrated the dinner (and were severely beaten when discovered) reported that the 28 attendees were from the local public security department and included several senior police officials and the head of a public security bureau. The attendees knew what they were doing because the dinner was heavily guarded. After the journalists’ story appeared in their newspaper, the Southern Metropolis Daily, 14 police officers were suspended and an investigation was ordered.
It’s too late for one Chinese giant salamander – let’s hope this story helps the rest.