North America’s only giant salamander species is having a cotillion.
The Eastern Hellbender, also known as a Snot Otter or Old Lasagna Sides (as well as Devil Dog and Grampus according to Wikipedia), has made its public debut at the Bronx Zoo in New York, reports Reuters.
For years, the amphibians, which grow to be over two feet long, have been kept behind the scenes of the zoo as part of a conservation effort. Now they are ready to come out and meet their adoring public. Just don’t expect them to look like river otters.
These creatures have small eyes, sticky and wrinkly skin and flat heads and can be found in the rivers and streams of upstate New York and Northern Georgia. While they may elicit an “ew” from many, conservationists admire these animals because they serve as an early indicator of pollution. Since these salamanders pull oxygen through their skin to breathe, they are unfortunately some of the first animals to die when water is polluted.
Bronx Zoo-goers can now see the “Snot Otters” on display at the Reptile House. The Eastern Hellbenders’ love for hiding under rocks means you will have to search carefully to spot one.
Before making their debut, these giant salamanders were working on saving their species. Listed as “near threatended” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the Eastern Hellbender needs a population boost.
Thirty-eight of the Eastern Hellbenders cared for by the zoo have been released into the wild to help with these efforts.