Ozark Hellbender at two weeks old. Photo courtesy of St. Louis Zoo

An effort to breed the endangered snot otter has been successful at the St. Louis Zoo.

The “snot otter” or “old lasagna sides”, is perhaps best known as the Ozark Hellbender. This animal has been declining in population in Missouri, since the late 1980s. This first successful captive reproduction comes after nearly eight years of preparation. St. Louis Zoo Curator of herpatology and aquatics Jeff Ettling says saving these animals is worth all the time and effort.

He says these salamanders are a barometer of how the ecosystems in Missouri are doing. These animals stopped reproducing when toxins such as herbicides, metals and other chemicals entered the water stream. He says this affects people too, because studies have shown that men that live in the areas where the population is declining have lower sperm counts than men in other areas.

He says the zoo has hatched 63 salamanders this week, and there are 120 eggs that are expected to hatch this week in a simulated habitat at the zoo. The habitat is two streams that are 40 feet long, with native rocks and other vegetation.

See the baby hellbenders:


See more photos of the Ozark Hellbenders here.

AUDIO Allison Blood reports. Mp3 [:40]