The San Diego Zoo’s Education Department has a group of reptile ambassadors that is seen by thousands of children a year through school assemblies, animal presentations, sleepovers, and summer, spring, and winter camps. Spot, a spotted salamander, is our only amphibian ambassador. He’s a slimy guy who makes kids—and even adults—giggle when they touch him. He is dark gray with yellow spots and has a good appetite for earthworms and crickets!
Other salamander species making their home at the Zoo are Kaiser's newts, California newts, and fire salamanders. We had our first reproductive success with Kaiser's newts in 2011! Our new Reptile Walk, which opened in July 2012, features brand-new amphibian exhibits, where our Kaiser’s newts can be admired.
People are the salamanders’ worst enemy. For example, the Chinese giant salamander is at critical risk; it is hunted illegally by humans for food, and its body parts are used in traditional Chinese medicines.
Humans continue to pollute and destroy wetland habitats where newts and salamanders live. Remember, these amphibians need water to survive. Filling in their ponds, using pesticides, and rerouting water for our own needs has caused declines in many salamander populations—more than 70 species are currently listed as being at critical risk! We all need to help conserve remaining habitats and provide new gardens and parks for these unique creatures.