Cynops wolterstorffi. Original Boulanger plate, 1905 (Public Domain)
Cynops wolterstorffi. Original Boulanger plate, 1905 (Public Domain)

The extinctions ongoing worldwide promise to be at least as great as the mass extinction that occurred at the end of the age of dinosaurs.
— Edward O. Wilson, Biologist

Where do we record the passing of wildlife? Who mourns the silent deaths of the small?
― O.R. Melling, Author

The Yunnan lake newt (Cynops wolterstorffi) is not considered a Threatened species or an Endangered species. It is extinct and has not been seen since 1979. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) the reasons for its extinction are believed to be habitat loss, pollution, and introduced species. All of these threats are caused by humans.

The Yunnan lake newt is not the only salamander to be driven to extinction. Ainsworth’s Salamander (Plethodon ainsworthi) has also disappeared. This was a small species of plethodontid (lungless salamander).

The species has been listed as Extinct because it has not been recorded since 1964, and extensive searches have failed to locate this salamander. It seems possible that habitat loss through deforestation might have caused its extinction (IUCN).

In early 2014, various news sources from around the world reported that the Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) had gone extinct after a three month survey of these amphibians failed to find a single wild specimen. On February 21, Armando Tovar Garza, a biologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said his team had seen two of them. However, the species is still Critically Endangered and at the very brink of extinction. Iflscience states that as of 2008 only a mere 100 axolotls remained in the wild.

According to the IUCN, more then 70 salamander species are currently listed as Critically Endangered. This means these species face a very high risk of extinction in the wild. It is the highest risk category assigned by the IUCN Red List for wild species. The destruction of habitat, pollution, climate change, disease, and harvesting from the wild all continue to threaten these already imperilled animals.

The human-induced total extermination of a species is the most devastating and mortifying act of animal cruelty and environmental degradation committed. Although this may or may not be intentional in various instances, our failure to be better stewards to the environment and to the other species on the planet warrants us as guilty. As residence of this planet we all have a role to play to make sure we safe-keep and protect our fellow species. Eco-systems have shown that all flora and fauna have a part to play, and given our position, our part should be steward and conservationist.

Find out how you can help contribute to the preservation and continuing survival of salamanders at:

By Matt Ellerbeck

The Extinction of Salamander: A look at species lost

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