- Associated Press - Saturday, October 11, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - State officials are celebrating the release of nearly 200 large amphibians into three eastern Ohio watersheds through a partnership with two zoos.

The release comes in an effort to re-establish the eastern hellbender. It’s the largest amphibian in Ohio and one of the largest salamanders in the world.

The state Department of Natural Resources says the amphibians’ release occurred over the summer and consisted of 45 animals reared at the Columbus Zoo. Another 144 salamanders came from eggs reared at the Toledo Zoo.

The conservation plan aims to establish multiple, self-sustaining hellbender populations in at least six Ohio watersheds.

State officials say the hellbender plays a key role in the state’s natural heritage, and the species’ presence is an indicator of healthy habitats, such as clean water.

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