SAN MARCOS, Texas — A slippery thief has sparked a Texas-sized mystery after making off with a colony of highly-endangered salamanders from a government breeding colony.
The Center for Biological Diversity recently announced a $20,000 reward for information leading to the return of the 253 Texas blind salamanders and 110 San Marcos salamanders that went missing from the San Marcos Aquatic Resources Center in November.
With no surveillance video available, investigators have been left with almost no clues and researchers at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-run center are baffled by what the motive could have been.
“Losing hundreds of these amazing salamanders is a terrible blow to their conservation,” said Collette Adkins, an attorney and biologist with the center. “The San Marcos facility served as a ‘Noah’s Ark’ that could preserve the fragile salamanders if they went extinct in the wild. The tragic loss of these animals threatens their very existence.”
The salamanders are native to the Edwards Aquifer region in the area of San Antonio and exist only in a small system of isolated, underground waterways. They are highly vulnerable to pollution, so the Fish and Wildlife Service maintained a backup colony at the center in case the salamanders were to get wiped out in the wild.
The San Marcos salamander received protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1980. The Texas blind salamander, a pale and eyeless amphibian, has been protected since 1967.
“Someone out there knows who did this, and I really hope they’ll step forward and help secure justice for these animals,” Adkins said.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Fish and Wildlife Service’s San Antonio Office of Law Enforcement at (210) 681-8419 or Operation Game Thief at 1-800-792-GAME (4263).