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The original item was published from 7/14/2015 9:37:20 AM to 7/14/2015 9:38:20 AM.

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Posted on: July 14, 2015

[ARCHIVED] Hellbenders arrive at Columbian Park Zoo

Lafayette, Indiana – The Columbian Park Zoo will receive 10 juvenile hellbenders, or giant salamanders, from Purdue University on Monday, May 18th at approximately 10:00 a.m.

The zoo is housing the year-old hellbenders as part of a Purdue conservation program that allows the zoo to rear the young in captivity to increase their survival rates in the wild.

Dr. Rod Williams, Associate Professor of Wildlife Science and leader of the university’s hellbender effort, approached Columbian Park Zoo around a year ago to assist with housing a few of the juveniles hatched from the 300 hellbender eggs his team collected from the Blue River in southern Indiana.

The zoo has been busy preparing for the arrival of the hellbenders, setting up chillers, water pumps and tanks.

“We were able to replicate the water conditions of the Purdue Aquaculture Research Lab’s tank and are ready for the arrival of the salamanders,” said Dana Rhodes, Interim Zoo Director at the Columbian Park Zoo. “We look forward to giving the salamanders a new home and being part of this great wildlife conservation collaboration with Purdue University.”

Although the hellbenders will not be on display for the public, viewing the hellbenders will be included in special education programs and tours.

“Hellbender populations are decreasing in the wild partly due to habitat degradation, low-quality water and infectious disease,” said Rhodes. “We are excited to incorporate hellbender conservation messages into our education programs to teach kids what they can do at home to create healthy yards to help hellbenders.”

Columbian Park Zoo is one of three zoos that Dr. Williams is partnering with to raise awareness of this declining species. The two other zoos involved are Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo and Mesker Park Zoo in Evansville.


The zoo plans to house the hellbenders for approximately two years after which Dr. Williams and his team will release them back into their Southern Indiana habitat to be tracked.

For more information, please contact (765) 807-1540 or drhodes@lafayette.in.gov, ‘like’ our Facebook page for updates on zoo news and events. Columbian Park Zoo is now accepting memberships for the 2015 season. Check out the zoo website for a list of membership levels and benefits.


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Founded in 1908, Columbian Park Zoo is the second oldest zoo in Indiana. It is approximately 6 acres in size and is located in historic Columbian Park. The Zoo features several “immersion” exhibits and the animal collection consists of nearly 200 animals representing approximately 90 species.

Established in 1976, Friends of Columbian Park Zoo is a non-profit, membership organization that raises funds and advocates support for the Columbian Park Zoo. For more information, please call 765-807-1545 or visit www.columbianparkzoo.org.

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