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Chinese Giant Salamander

Andrias davidianus


The Chinese giant salamander is the world’s largest amphibian, growing up to 1.8 metres long, with a large tail comprising almost 60% of the body length.

It has even been reported in 1983 that a 3-metre, 70 kg salamander was purchased at a local market in China!

There are only three living species of giant salamander in the family Cryptobranchidae: the Chinese giant salamander, the Japanese giant salamander, and the American hellbender. Ancestors of the Cryptobranchidae diverged from all other amphibians over 170 million years, ago during the Jurassic Period. This makes the giant salamanders one of the most evolutionarily isolated families on the amphibian tree of life, residing at the tips of a long, solitary branch.

The Chinese giant salamander is under immense threat of extinction due to habitat loss, water pollution, and over-exploitation of wild populations, as this species is considered a food delicacy in China and is also used for traditional medicines. Consequently, the species has suffered catastrophic population declines and is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List.

Despite the establishment of commercial farming of the salamanders across China, it is thought the majority of individuals being traded are taken from the wild. However, the Chinese Giant salamander is listed on Appendix I of CITES, therefore international trade in this species is prohibited.

  • Order: Caudata
  • Family: Cryptobranchidae
  • Population: Unknown
  • Trend: decreasing
  • Size: 1-1.8m

EDGE Score

EDGE Score: 6.9 (?)
ED Score: 61.18 (?)
GE / IUCN Red List (?)
Not Evaluated Data Deficient Least Concern Near Threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically Endangered Extinct in the Wild Extinct


This species was once widespread in central, south-western and southern China, although now its range is now very fragmented. It occurs from 100–1,500 m asl. Records of the species in Taiwan, Province of China, might be the result of introductions.

Habitat and Ecology

The Chinese Giant Salamader lives and breeds in large hill streams, normally in forested areas. Females lay approximately 500 eggs in a string in an underwater cavity that is occupied by a male. External fertilization of the eggs occurs by a guarding male, which then hatch after 50-60 days. Larvae then develop in streams, taking food after about 30 days. The species is generally nocturnal but may emerge in the daytime during the breeding season. They feed on fish, worms, insect larvae, anurans, crustaceans, molluscs, reptiles and small mammals.

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Conservation Actions

For each key category of conservation action, we calculated a conservation attention score based on expert information. In this graph, a higher score means the action is being carried out more intensively over more of the species range. The colour shows how important each action is considered to be for the conservation of this species.

Engaging stakeholders
Addressing threats
Status of knowledge
Management plan
Capacity building
Behaviour change
Awareness raising
  Score: 100 means the activity occurs at high level across more than 75% of the species range
Very Low

Overall Conservation Attention

We combined all of the expert information on conservation actions to calculate an overall conservation attention score for this species. Please help us to reach our goal of establishing dedicated conservation attention at “High” levels for all EDGE species.

Very Low Low Medium High

More information

Recent studies have grouped all possible conservation activities for any species into nine key categories (Washington et. al 2015). For each action, we asked experts for each species to assess the extent to which that action is being carried out and how much of the species’ range that action occurs in. For each action we used these two pieces of information to calculate the conservation attention score per action. A score of 100 means that the action is being carried out to a high level across at least 75% of the species range. We then combined the scores for all actions into an overall conservation attention score for the species. The experts also judged how important each category was to the conservation of that particular species.

This wordcloud illustrates the threats facing this species. The size of each word indicates the extent of a species range that is affected by that threat (larger size means a greater area is affected). The colour of the word indicates how much that threat impacts the species (darker shades of red mean the threat is more severe).

Wood plantations Mining Hunting Logging Dams Industry

Threat wordcloud key:

Small area affected
Large area affected
Least severe
Most severe
Severity unknown
Source: The IUCN List of Threatened Species. Version 2017.1.
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Conserving the Chinese giant salamander

  • Locations: China - predominantly Shaanxi, Guizhou, Guangdong and Guangxi provinces
  • Active dates: 2011 - ongoing
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Lv Jingcai

  • Project name: Building existing data of the distribution range and abundance of wild Chinese Giant Salamander (CGS) in Guizhou province
  • Project site: Guiyang, China
  • Active: 2014 - 2016
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Zhou Feng

  • Project name: Disease control of the Chinese Giant Salamander
  • Project site: Xi'an, China
  • Active: 2014 - 2016
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Yan Fang

  • Project name: A sustainable future for Chinese giant salamanders
  • Project site: Kunming, China
  • Active: 2014 - 2016
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Becky Shu Chen

  • Project name: A sustainable future for Chinese giant salamanders
  • Project site: Kunming, Yunnan Province P.R.China
  • Active: 2014 - 2016
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