Raising Hellbenders at the St. Louis Zoo

Raising Hellbenders at the St. Louis Zoo


– Hi, everybody. I’m Amanda. – And I’m Brian. – And we’re here at the Saint Louis Zoo to talk to you about how
we raise hellbenders. I’m gonna talk to you about how we raise the hellbenders from eggs to adults. – And I’m gonna talk to you about how we create the aquarium
systems that we use to raise the hellbenders. – Now let’s go get started. So, here at the Saint
Louis Zoo we’re raising Ozark hellbenders because they’re a federally listed endangered species, and we’re raising them up from eggs, all the way until we are able to release them back into the wild. Ozark hellbenders are
found in Southern Missouri and Northern Arkansas. Hellbenders are a type of salamander, which is an amphibian and
that means that they live very close, or in the water. Hellbenders can get up
to about two feet long, and they kind of have a flat body. Their head is very flat,
because it allows them to get underneath these
rocks that they live in on the bottom of the stream. And they’re really kind of unique too, ’cause they have a very long kind of rudder-like tail, it’s kind of flat, which helps them swim through the water. (water bubbling) We actually have captive-bred eggs, and then we also have some that are collected from the wild. And we put them into our egg tray systems, and we take care of
them in those egg trays until they hatch. And then once they hatch out we put them into Kritter Keepers,
inside of larger tanks. And it takes them another
six to eighth weeks before they actually start eating. And once they start
eating, it’s a lot of work for the keepers, because we go through with little pipettes,
like little eyedroppers, and put the food in front
of all the hellbenders. So, we make sure that they’re all growing. As they get older they get out of those Kritter Keepers,
and go into the larger tanks. And we still continue to feed them. We feed them different food
items as they get older. When the animals first start eating they’re eating little tiny foods, because they’re very tiny animals. So, they get things like brine shrimp, and then as they get
older they start getting a lot more live-food items. So, we’ll feed them ghost shrimp. Sometimes we get crayfish for them, and we feed them fish, and also creole and a lot of other different
frozen food items for them. So, here at the Saint Louis Zoo we have over 4,000 hellbenders. And we go through and we weigh and measure all of them, at least every six months. And the way that we can track the animals it’s that they actually have a chip, just like they put in cats and dogs. And we can scan that chip and we know which animal it is. So, now that we’ve learned
how we raise hellbenders, let’s take it over to Brian and learn how we take care of over 4,000 of them, here at the Saint Louis Zoo. (computerized jingle)
(machine whirring) – Thanks Amanda. We’re down here at the
Ron Goellner’s Center for Hellbender Conservation where we have over 250 different individual
hellbender aquariums. Just like your aquarium at
home, we measure everything from water quality to
temperature and oxygen in our exhibits here. For our hellbenders we
have several different types of systems for
different sizes of hellbenders from eggs to juveniles,
all the way to adults. And you can see indoors we actually have a manmade stream, where
hellbenders lay their eggs. (machines roaring) (water bubbling) So, this is a really cool feature on our indoor stream system. It’s called a bio filter, and
it helps oxygenate the water, as well as promote healthy
bacteria in the system. (machine switch clicks)
(water gurgling) (machine whirring) It may look like a
construction site in here, but hellbenders love to hide. So, we give them PVC pipes and tiles to help mimic their natural
behavior in the wild. – So, I love my job,
and I love taking care of hellbenders, because
I know that if it weren’t for us working with them,
they’d probably be gone within the next 20 years or so. And knowing that I am
helping to safe them, and to safe this species makes my job completely worthwhile, and it makes me love it even more.

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