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Purdue to work with 3 zoos to save hellbender salamanders

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) – Purdue University is working with three zoos and the state Department of Natural Resources on a program to breed hellbender salamander in captivity and release them to their southern Indiana habitat.

North America’s largest salamander is in decline nationally and is most vulnerable when young.

Associate professor of wildlife science Rod Williams says mortality for the hellbenders can be as high as 99 percent in the wild. He says by rearing them in captivity, the hellbenders have a much better survival rate.

The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo will receive 20 on Tuesday. The transfer of another 20 to Mesker Park Zoo in Evansville and 10 to Columbian Park Zoo in Lafayette will be scheduled soon.

The hellbenders will not be incorporated into public exhibits at the zoos.