Giant news today from the Smithsonian National Zoological Park: five Japanese giant salamanders (Andrias japonicus) have made their way across the globe and are taking up residence at the Zoo. A. japonicus is the second largest amphibian alive today (there were some giants in the past), and is a close relative of the North American hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) both being in the cryptobranchid family. They are nocturnal hunters and are completely aquatic, living in clear, fast flowing, cold water streams. In the wild, they will travel upstream to mate and spawn, and the male provides a substantial amount of parental care (Adler & Halliday, 1986).
But unfortunately harvesting, pollution, and habitat loss have gotten this amazing amphibian labeled as "near threatened" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) "Red List". This is where the Zoo comes in. Through a collaborative effort, the City of Hiroshima Asa Zoological Park has given the Zoo a group of salamanders that will be the first wave in a new long-term breeding program. There hasn't been a Japanese giant salamander on exhibit since around 2008, but you can visit four of them at the Zoo's Reptile Discovery Center, and the fifth (a large female) over at the Asia Trail. Check out the Zoo's press release here.
Adler, K. & Halliday, T. (eds). 1986. The Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Checkmark Books, New York.