Reward for salamanders’ return upped
SAN ANTONIO — The Center for Biological Diversity today announced the addition of another $5,000 to the reward for information leading to a conviction or fine in the disappearance of hundreds of endangered salamanders from a San Marcos breeding facility, bringing the total reward offered to $20,000.
The Andrew Sabin Family Foundation, which funds amphibian conservation among other things, donated the additional $5,000 for the reward.
In November, 253 Texas blind salamanders and 110 San Marcos salamanders went missing from the San Marcos Aquatic Resources Center (SMARC) over the Thanksgiving weekend.
With no surveillance video available, investigators have little information on what happened to the salamanders. Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a $10,000 reward and the Center for Biological Diversity added $5,000. Today’s addition of $5,000 from the foundation brings the total reward to $20,000.
“Losing hundreds of these amazing salamanders is a terrible blow to their conservation,” said Collette Adkins, an attorney and biologist with the Center. “The San Marcos facility served as a ‘Noah’s Ark’ that could preserve the fragile salamanders if they went extinct in the wild. The tragic loss of these animals threatens their very existence.”
These fully aquatic animals require clean, well-oxygenated water and are threatened by activities that disturb their surface springs, pollute their water or reduce its flow to their underground aquatic habitats. The San Marcos salamander received protection of the Endangered Species Act in 1980. It is found only in San Marcos Springs and nearby aquatic habitats in Hays County. The Texas blind salamander is restricted to the Edwards Aquifer in Hays County. This pale and eyeless amphibian has been protected since 1967. Both salamander species have beautiful, lacy external gills.
“Someone out there knows who did this, and I really hope they’ll step forward and help secure justice for these animals,” Adkins said.
A conviction for stealing the endangered salamanders could result in fines up to $100,000 and up to one year in prison. Anyone with information should contact the Fish and Wildlife Service’s San Antonio Office of Law Enforcement at 210-681-8419 or Operation Game Thief at 800-792-GAME (4263).