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Inviato da Wes von Papinešu on Giugno 03, 2000 at 20:59:05:
ASAHI SHIMBUN (Japan) 01 June 00 Headache over rare salamanders (Yutaka Nagata)
Shingu, Wakayama Prefecture-The population of the giant salamander, a species protected by the government, has slithered back, creating big headaches for fishermen in southern Kii Peninsula.
The giant salamander appears to be propagating in the Hirai River in Kozagawa, Wakayama Prefecture. Residents say the lizards are not rare in the river. Moreover, they are thriving on ayu and amago, fish that are vital resources for local fishermen.
The fishermen say they are helpless because they cannot catch or kill the government-protected amphibians without permission.
The giant salamander, which is native to Japan, is one of the world's largest amphibians. It can grow to 180 centimeters in length and feeds on insects, worms, snails and fish. It requires a moist habitat, hides during the day and feeds at night.
The government designated the giant salamander a ``special natural treasure'' for protection in 1951.
The creature had been spotted only in clear fresh water in western Japan, and the southern part of Wakayama Prefecture is not on the list of habitats compiled by the Agency for Cultural Affairs.
Local residents say someone brought the rare animals to a pond near the river more than 30 years ago, and some of the salamanders escaped.
People quickly learned that the salamanders survived well in the river. In 1975, five adult salamanders, each about 1 meter in length, were spotted in the river.
The usually nocturnal giant salamanders are frequently seen in the daytime at the river.
"There must be no other case in which giant salamanders brought in from other places are thriving,'' an agency official said.
Giant salamanders once disappeared from most Japanese rivers because of pollution and the construction of dams.
The salamanders in the Hirai River seem to be growing quite large. A researcher said the local environment must have well-suited for the salamanders.
A team of researchers plans to conduct a 3-year study on the giant salamanders in the Hirai River. They will also examine the loss of ayu and amago.
An agency official says the animals might be removed from the river, but acknowledges the difficulty of carrying out such a plan because they are a special rare species.
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