Forget birds; let’s talk salamanders

In Dan Cristol’s Dec. 22 article, he began by saying the Bald Eagle is abundant and not in danger of extinction, we can look for other national symbols.

This statement accurately alludes to the fact species serving as national symbols receive more conservation attention. While his article focused on avian species, he didn’t consider other taxa. I’d like to draw your attention to salamanders.

The United States is home to the largest number of salamander species in the world, many of which are located in the Appalachian Mountains. Great Smoky Mountains National Park has more than 30 species and is widely considered the global salamander biodiversity hotspot. If Americans truly love being the best, we should take pride in the fact that we are the best country for salamanders.

With their big eyes and tiny toes, salamanders will steal your heart. They come in many colors – green, yellow, red, etc. Recent Virginia legislation elevated the red salamander to state amphibian. This will, hopefully, make salamanders a point of pride and inspire people to support conservation efforts. The federal government should take note and start promoting amphibian conservation.

Our sallies face many threats, including feral cats, climate change and habitat destruction. More than a couple Virginian endemics may soon be extinct if we do not address these concerns. Bald Eagles benefitted from their national symbol status with massive efforts made to stop the release of DDT. So, too, can native salamanders benefit from this status.

Eagles exist everywhere. Salamanders make our country special.

Erin Chapman

Exmore

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