Plethodon yonahlossee © Marshal Hedin

Salamanders Need Your Help … Now

United States

Why should you care about salamanders? Because we need them as much as they need us. Because all creatures deserve to be protected and provided with the opportunity to not just survive, but also thrive. Because of their beauty. And well, because they’re worth it.

As with all amphibians, salamanders are important indicators of the health of our environment. Think of them as the proverbial canary in the coal mine. If something is wrong in the environment they will be among the first to alert us to a potential problem that could easily affect everything else relying on that ecosystem … including us.

While most salamanders live underground and are rarely seen, they are in fact one of the most abundant predators found in the forests they inhabit. And because they are so abundant, they are also a key source of food for the other animals they share the forests with. When salamanders disappear in an ecosystem, everything else is impacted.

So what is happening to salamanders that we should be concerned about?

Like all amphibians around the world, salamanders are facing a variety of serious threats to their very survival. Not only are they losing their forest homes and breeding grounds to deforestation, they are also suffering from the devastating impacts of pollution, road mortalities, infectious diseases, and even over-consumption.

Salamandra salamandra © William Warby

And now salamanders face a new threat. And this is why we need your help.

First identified in 2013 as an infectious disease, salamander chytrid disease (also known as salamander chytridiomycosis) is caused by the newly discovered Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) fungus. It is a fungus that is closely related to Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) which has caused massive amphibian declines and extinctions throughout many regions of the world.

Bsal was first identified in The Netherlands when large-scale mortalities of Fire Salamanders (Salamandra salamandra) were observed. This was then followed by similar reports in Germany of both wild and captive populations of Fire Salamanders.

So far no evidence of Bsal has been found in wild or captive salamanders in North America. We have not yet seen the mass mortalities or population declines of native salamanders because of Bsal like we have already seen in Europe.

But, that does not mean it is not here. It could simply be undetected at this point. Surveys and monitoring of Bsal are still in their infancy and the levels to which these are conducted need to be greatly expanded. And with the Southern Appalachians being the salamander capital of the world in particular, it’s more important than ever that we come together to protect them from this devastating disease if it ends up in our forests. And this needs to be done quickly to safeguard the future of salamanders across North America.

This is an urgent situation and we need to act now. There has never been a better time for the conservation and pet keeping communities to unite against a common threat.

We need to increase the level of funding available that would allow conservationists, researchers, biologists and others to expand critical Bsal survey and monitoring efforts. We must remain vigilant and expand our surveillance efforts. Our aim is to create an annual salamander conservation fund valued at USD20,000 that would cover the cost of monitoring both native and captive populations of salamanders.

Preventing the spread of Bsal and its introduction is only option right now.

Some of you may recall that the Amphibian Survival Alliance previously handed out for free, Bsal testing kits to keepers of pet salamanders to help with the early detection of Bsal via the pet trade. Unfortunately due to the high demand for these free testing kits we used up all of our funding for this initiative. We need to ensure we have access to funding to continue efforts like this.

Notophthalmus viridescens © VSPYCC

A $20.00 donation today will cover the cost of a single swabbing kit for a salamander which will test for the presence (or hopefully absence) of Bsal. A single swab could save an untold number of salamanders if Bsal is identified. For just $20.00 you will help all of us stay ahead of the curve if Bsal should even turn up on North American soil.

And best of all, this conservation fund won’t only be helping salamanders in captivity. It will also allow us to screen wild salamanders in the Southern Appalachians as well.

Only through increased surveillance and monitoring can we protect our salamanders from this potentially devastating threat. We’ve already seen salamanders disappear entirely in Europe because of Bsal. The threat is serious. The threat is real.

This salamander conservation fund would allow us to continue working on keeping salamanders safe and preventing further declines.

Even though Bsal has not yet been detected in North America, it is critical that if it does arrive, that we can identify it immediately. This will help prevent mass die-offs of the salamanders we all love so much.

We need to protect both wild and captive salamanders (and newts too!) as quickly as possible. We need your donation today. Waiting to act is not an option if we’re going to have any chance at protecting these amazing amphibians.

Together, we can make a difference.

If you would like to learn more about funding and sponsorship opportunities for this effort please contact Candace M. Hansen-Hendrikx, Director of Communications and Partnerships.

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Fast Facts

Bald Eagle State Forest, Pennsylvania © Nicholas A. Tonelli

Location
The Southern Appalachian Mountains region of the United States is home to more salamander species that anywhere in the world. This makes that area not just a hotspot for salamander biodiversity, but also the salamander capital of the world.

Urspelerpes brucei © Alan Cressler

Plethodon shenandoah © Brian Gratwicke

Threat
The recently discovered pathogenic fungus Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) is closely related to B. dendrobatidis (Bd) which has been responsible for massive amphibian declines and extinctions in many parts of the world to date. Bsal has proven to be lethal to many salamander species and is is now threatening the survival of salamanders around the world.

Action
Establish a salamander conservation fund that would support Bsal monitoring and surveillance efforts for early detection of Bsal in both captive and wild populations of salamanders in the United States, with a particular emphasis on the salamanders of the Southern Appalachian region.

Financial Need
$20,000USD

Funded 100%

Northampton County, Pennsylvania © Nicholas A. Tonelli

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Your donation will make an immediate, real, and lasting impact. As a global alliance with partners generous enough to cover our operational costs, we are able to channel 100% of your donations directly to helping save these amphibians.

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