- Associated Press - Thursday, August 17, 2017

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) - A southern Indiana zoo has built an artificial stream designed to fool a rare salamander species into using it for breeding.

The Mesker Park Zoo’s artificial stream includes chillers and pumps to mimic a natural flowing river. Officials with the Evansville zoo hope captive Eastern hellbenders will breed and lay eggs in the stream.

If they do, that would be a first for the species that’s North America’s largest salamander.

Hellbenders can grow two or more feet long and live up to 30 years, but their numbers are shrinking in the wild.

Rod Williams is an associate professor of wildlife science at Purdue University who helped start Purdue’s Help the Hellbender campaign.

Williams says the ultimate conservation goal is to return the big amphibians to all of their historical habitats.

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