A pair of Japanese giant salamanders at the Honolulu Zoo are making history — and babies.
The salamanders, endemic to Japan and considered a national treasure there, have — for the first time outside of Japan — laid and fertilized eggs, called Hanzaki eggs.
“It is an honor to have the Japanese giant salamanders at the Honolulu Zoo and to be part of the conservation program,” said Honolulu Zoo Director Linda Santos in a news release today. “We are very pleased to have gotten this far in the breeding program. Even if these eggs are not successful we are proud of our staff’s accomplishments in getting the animals to feel comfortable in their habitat to breed, and at a very early age for these animals. We are patiently waiting as the excitement builds to hopefully develop larvae and hatch out new salamanders.”
Zookeepers observed the female salamander in the process of laying her eggs in one of the dens of the habitat on the morning of Sept. 29. Zookeepers then observed the male appearing to fertilize the eggs.
Honolulu’s salamanders — Panda and Maru, both females, and Peace, a male — were gifted to Honolulu Zoo by the Hiroshima City Asa Zoological Park and debuted in February at the new Ectotherm Complex.
Peace, 11, and Panda, 13, share a tank and are the breeding pair. Maru, 13, is in her own tank.
There are only four other zoos in the U.S. with Japanese giant salamanders, which can grow to about 5 feet in length and are considered the second largest salamander in the world, behind the Chinese giant salamander.
Shinji Minami, director of the Hiroshima City Asa Zoological Park, said in a statement that the breeding is “epoch-making” because of the pair’s young age and it’s the “first breeding in the world other than Japan.”
The female typically selects a den and lays her eggs, and then the male den master fertilizes the eggs, tends to them, and protects them, according to Honolulu Zoo. The gestation period is 40 to 90 days, and the cooler the water, the slower the egg development. Honolulu Zoo’s water temperature is on the cooler side at 62 degrees Fahrenheit, so the eggs are anticipated to hatch in early December.