Measuring over one metre in length, with bulging muscles and a giant grin across his face, ZSL London Zoo's newest arrival is already making a big impression.
Professor Wu, a Chinese giant salamander, is the face of the Zoological Society of London's (ZSL) new conservation project, established to help prevent these unique giants from becoming extinct in the wild.
Named after one of the project's partners in China, Professor Wu is the only Chinese giant salamander in the UK, and the 19-year-old male arrived at the end of November from Rotterdam Zoo to become the ambassador for the project.
Giant salamanders are often referred to as 'living fossils' due to their 179-million year heritage, and zoo visitors can see Professor Wu at ZSL London Zoo's brand-new exhibit, which features a sandy floor and rocky caverns, from which he likes to 'ambush' his food.
Classified as Critically-Endangered by the IUCN, they are the world's largest amphibian, and facing threat of extinction due to being over-harvested for human consumption as well as habitat loss and destruction in their native China.
Team leader of ZSL London Zoo's reptile and amphibian team, Ben Tapley said: "Chinese giant salamanders may not be everyone's idea of 'beautiful', but we think Professor Wu is more than capable of winning over our visitors.
"He's an impressive size, measuring 1.3 metres from snout to tail, and on top of that he has a feisty personality – it took a team of four of us to move him to his new custom-built home.
"As well as an exciting new arrival here at the zoo, this giant salamander is a great representative for our ground breaking conservation project in China, where we really want to turn the fate of this Critically Endangered and evolutionary distinct species around."
Visitors to ZSL London Zoo can see Professor Wu now in the 'Land of the Giants' exhibit, and learn more about ZSL's work to save this unique animal. Visit www.zsl.org for more information.
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