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The hellbender is North America’s largest salamander. As is increasingly the case for many amphibians, wild populations of hellbenders are becoming increasingly threatened across their range. Threats to the hellbender are poorly understood, but may include pollution, habitat disturbance, and chytrid fungus (a major threat to amphibian populations throughout the Americas). A major obstacle to hellbender conservation in North Carolina is the limited amount of data on their distribution. The NC Zoo Curator of
Reptiles and Amphibians, John Groves, has been involved with hellbender conservation and research for many years. John, along with other NC Zoo staff, is conducting field surveys of hellbenders in western North Carolina in partnership with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. These surveys will allow a better understanding of the hellbender's distribution in North Carolina and will begin to investigate potential causes of population decline. The NC Zoo is also collaborating with institutions and agencies in other states to develop a conservation plan for hellbenders. Funding for this project is currently provided by a grant from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Conservation Endowment Fund.