Articles

BIGGEST Salamander in Japan!

September 1, 2019


– Alright, comin’ up. Alright guys, I’m going in. Whoa. There’s the head,
there’s the head. Look at it, it’s the
size of a cantaloupe. (energetic music) (animal roars) – [Coyote Voiceover] The
giant salamander is considered a special national monument
by the Japanese government, and for centuries, it has lurked in the shadows of myth and lore. Ranking as the second
largest salamander species in the world, they
can grow to lengths of nearly five feet,
classifying them as monstrous in the world of amphibians. The Brave Wilderness team and I had the incredible
honor of working alongside renowned salamander
expert Dr. Sumio Okada, and we traveled
deep into the wilds of the Tottori Prefecture to
find and collect biometric data on these elusive river dragons. – Wait, wait, wait,
something right here. Right here, we got one, got one! Wow, look at that! Have you ever seen an
amphibian of that size? – [Coyote Voiceover] Due
to their vulnerable status and strict licensing,
only Okada Sensei was allowed to catch and
handle the wild specimens. Yet when it comes to
giants in captivity, the regulations are
a bit more flexible. Today we are visiting the
Hanzaki Research Institute of Japan. For over a decade, their
mission has been to research and help to ensure the survival of the Japanese
giant salamander. In the field, I did my
best to learn all I could from Okada Sensei. My diligence toward
being a good student in the art of giant
salamander research ultimately earned
my teacher’s trust, and I was given the invitation to assist in the
yearly data collection for the institute’s
oldest, largest, and most cherished salamander,
the great LsanshMuo. – Alright, so Okada Sensei
said wait right here. He’s going up there
into the enclosure to check on the salamander. Now, this is one of the largest
Japanese giant salamanders ever found that is
currently on record. He tells me it is
absolutely enormous. It’s going to dwarf anything
that we saw in the field. I’m super excited, I can
barely contain myself right now because I’m gonna be
able to get hands-on with this animal to help
with the measurements. So the role is gonna
sorta be reversed here. I’m gonna be collecting
the measurements, Okada Sensei is going
to be writing them down. Are you guys ready for this? We are going to see
one of the largest Japanese giant
salamanders ever seen. – [Mark] Let’s do it! – Let’s go! Oh no wait, he just told
us to wait right here. – [Mark] Oh. (Coyote laughs) – Oh, I’m like, jumping
out of my skin right now. – [Mark] Alright, ready? – Yeah.
– [Mark] Alright! – We’re ready! – [Mark] Let’s do it! – Let’s do it, guys. Oh man! You guys nervous? – [Mark] I don’t
know, I’m excited. – [Coyote Voiceover]
Following in the footsteps of my teacher, we ascended
a flight of stairs and entered the paddock
of this ancient creature. Its fenced and fortified
containment area wasn’t necessarily designed
to keep the salamander in, but instead was designed to keep any potential predators out. – Now, Okada Sensei has
quarantined the biggest one down in one enclosure for us
so it’s easier to find, easier for us to catch and
collect the biometric data. So it’s in this one? – Do you see it? – Oh! Right there, look at that! Look, that’s its
nose sticking out. Whoa! Hold on, get a shot, get a shot. That is a giant salamander. Alright, so what we’re gonna do is actually enter
into the enclosure, we’ll peel back these boards, gently get the salamander
out into the open water. We’re gonna have to
get it into a net and then up here to
collect the biometric data, but we’ll spend a
couple minutes there inside the enclosure to sort
of look at some of its features and just be in awe of
what this creature is. We’ll come around like this. – [Mark] Is it gonna
take all that weight? – I’ll let you go in first. I’m gonna leave my
pack up here, guys. – [Mark] Alright. – Alright guys, I’m going in. – [Mark] ‘Kay, careful. – Getting into the water. Woo, that is cold! That is some cold water. Alright here, hand
me your camera. – Oh boy. Here you go, Mario. Woo! – Before we get the
salamander out of there, lemme see if I can
get a shot of it with the GoPro just
hunkered down here. So it’s right under here, right? – [Dr. Okada] Here. – Okay. Now, let’s try to move
really, really slowly so that we don’t
muddy the water. We wanna try to keep it
as clear as possible. I’m gonna have to just
go, sort of just go blind on this here. Hopefully the camera is
picking up the salamander. You can see– – [Mark] It’s definitely
moving backwards. More of the tail’s
coming out the back. – Lotta debris in there. Oh, oh, oh, I see
it, you’re right. It is starting to
come out the back. Well, maybe we’re getting
a shot, tough to tell. – [Mark] Oh man, it’s big. – There it is, it’s right there. – [Mark] It’s actually
backing up, it looks like. – Oh my goodness, it is huge. That is just its tail. Its tail is like, the
size of a canoe paddle. This is the largest amphibian
I have ever seen in my life. It’s time to reveal the beast. You ready? – I do– – You do the rocks? – Yeah, and you do– – I’ll get the boards? Okay. Guys, this is something
that is done once a year, removing the salamander
from the breeding paddock to collect its biometric data. This is a very special
day, an incredible honor for all of us to be a
part of this process. This is it. – [Mark] You ready?
– This is it, yeah. Trying to not disturb the silt. Whoa. Look at that. Are you kidding me? Look at the size of that thing. There’s the head,
there’s the head. Look at it, the size
of a cantaloupe! Whoa, my goodness that is
a monstrous salamander! – [Mark] It’s so much
bigger than I thought. Wait, there’s two! – Yeah, there’s a
smaller one in here. Smaller one in here, there’s
another one over here, but that is the big guy. Okada Sensei, so what’s
the best plan from here? Is it okay for me to go in
and bring the salamander around to this side? – Yeah. – Okay. Got it, thank you. Now here’s a question,
before we get it in the net, can you bring it up here
and can I slightly lift it to reveal it for the camera? – Yeah. – Yeah, okay. Before we put it in the net,
’cause once it’s in the net, it’ll be really hard to see. We actually need this smaller
one into the next tube here. C’mere, buddy. Oh, they’re so unique-feeling! There you go, you go in here. Whoa! Wow! This is the first
contact I’ve made with one of these salamanders. It is incredible! C’mon, big guy. There we go. Slowly coax him down
through here, there you go. Wow, look at that. An absolute giant. What an ancient creature,
a living fossil. This animal is well over
a hundred years of age. Look at how cool that thing is. Can you believe that? Look at it, whoa. Whoa, he’s so slimy. Impossible to hold on to. That’s why we have
to use a dip net to actually get it out of here. Not only is it strong, it
is also incredibly slippery. Alright, so we’re gonna
gently, there we go. Slide down into that net. Okay, the salamander is
safely inside of the dip net. So I’m gonna go up
and Okada Sensei is gonna pass the
giant up to me. Oh, heavy. Got it? – [Mark] You okay? – Yep. Whoa! Got him, got him, got
him, got him, got him. Yep, good, good, good. Whoa! It is strong! It is heavy! Wow! Alright, that is me cradling
a Japanese giant salamander. Tail first? – Head first, okay. So this end opens up. Okay. Set him here. There we go. Okay. I do have to be careful
that I’m not bitten. The do have extremely
sharp teeth, and this is a very large animal. So I have to gently
get this opened up and he will slide out this end. Alright, here we go. Look at that. – [Mark] Whoa. – Look at that giant. Hi, buddy. Okay. Wow! Okay, got my hand
underneath the jaw. There we go. Okay, I’m gonna gently slide
it down here, Okada Sensei, so we can fully
reveal the salamander. There we go. So slippery. The layer of mucus that
coats their bodies is, it’s just like, you see that? It’s like snot. And we wanna put
as little stress on the creature as possible. We’re gonna quickly
collect the biometric data, get a couple of cool
shots, and then release it right back into the enclosure. But let’s just take one second to admire the design
of this animal’s body. Look at how wide it is. Look at the head. And you know what? I’m looking, I can’t
even see the eyes. The eyes are right
up front here. They have such teeny
tiny little eyes. Get a little water on it, there. Oh, that’s good. Yes, yes, yes. Wow. – [Mark] Its head is
bigger than your head. – It is! I feel like my entire head
could fit inside of its mouth, but that’s not a place that
you wanna find yourself. Look at the tail. Enormous, absolutely enormous. So much power in this animal,
and when I was cradling it as it came up out
of the enclosure, you could feel just how
strong it truly was. Okay, so the first thing
we’re gonna end up getting is the total length
of the animal. Oh, you hear that
noise that it’s making? – [Mark] Yeah, like a hiss. – It’s like a grumbling! Sh sh sh sh sh sh sh. Oh, he’s gonna push that
rock, push those rocks down. Okay. Okay cool, we’ve kinda
got him in a good position to get the total length here. Right there, okay. We’re just gonna
go with this here. We are at 49 and a half. 49 and a half is
what it appears. In centimeters, that
is 126 centimeters. Wow. That is a giant. Okay, so we’re not gonna do
the snout to vent length. It’s too much to put
this animal on its back to get that measurement. So the next thing we’re gonna
do is get the head width and also the tail height
and finally its body weight. We’ve got some rain rolling in so we’re gonna have to
do this quickly, guys. Alright, I’m gonna get
the tail height first. I wanna do that at the
highest point if possible. It is right at 14. 14 centimeters. – [Dr. Okada] 14. – 21. – [Dr. Okada] 21. – 21. Alright, head width
21 centimeters. Absolutely dwarfs the giant
that we caught in the field. Alright, so the
next thing to do? – Body weight, okay. So how do we get
the body weight? We have to put it in– – Okay, put it inside
the blue container and then put that
on top of this. Okay, great. So we’re putting a
little bit of water inside of the container just to keep the
salamander hydrated. You don’t want its skin
to stick to the basin. Alright, so we’re saying that
the weight of the container with the water is 16 kilograms. We will put the
salamander inside and then subtract
that weight from 16. – Coyote, lie down
next to it real quick. – It’s almost
impossible to comprehend how big this thing
is, you’re right, unless we get something like
a human next to it for scale. Look at that. Alright, now this, we
have to do this quickly and very gently because
it’s very, very slippery. So we have as little chance
for error as possible. C’mere, big guy. Okay. – Head first. – Yep, okay, there you go. Real gentle. Alright. Oh man. So big, look at that. For the main episode
the other night when we were in the field,
we had a small container. This is as big as it gets. – [Coyote Voiceover] So why
is this giant salamander in captivity? Great question. Many years ago during the
building of a bridge system, its home was destroyed
and the animal was accidentally injured by
a piece of heavy machinery. The construction team quickly
realized what they had found and immediately alerted
the Hanzaki Institute. The good news is that
the salamander survived. The bad news is that
its home was destroyed, and as a displaced animal
of this size and stature, it was decided that
the great LsanshMuo should be kept in captivity. – So that just goes
to show you guys that even if an animal like
this loses an appendage, something like its
foot or its toes, it still has the ability to
survive against all odds. I mean, this is considered a
national treasure right here. When you look at
an animal like this and you think to yourself wow, this has been on the planet
longer than most of us. It is certainly something
that needs to be preserved, that needs to be
cherished and honored, and it’s really cool
that this salamander is now a part of
the breeding program here at the Hanzaki Institute. Alright, guys ready
to get the weight? – [Mark] Yep, let’s
get the weight. – Okay, so hands off
of the container, we’ve got it perfectly balanced,
salamander on the scale, and we are at just
about 30 kilograms. Remember, we need to
take 16 away from that, so 14 kilograms is the
weight of this amphibian. An absolute giant. Cannot believe it. Never thought that I would
see a salamander of this size. – [Mark] Man, so cool! Alright, cool. Do we wanna look at some of its
interesting characteristics? – Sure, yeah. Let’s take it back
down off of the scale. We’ve only got a couple
more minutes with it and then we gotta get it
back into its enclosure. Okay. Right here. Alright. Alright guys, now the
last thing we need to do is sorta just examine the
salamander’s features, make sure its feet and all
the aspects of its body are in really good shape. So the first thing
we’re gonna look at are the four feet here. The hands, look at that,
look at how big that hand is. Now, these salamanders have
four toes on the front feet and on the back feet they have
five toes, check that out. And those digits are about as
big in width as my fingers, look at that. Holding hands with a
Japanese giant salamander. Salamander is
incredibly healthy. When you get down to
here, you’ll notice all of the muscle in this tail. It is just a solid mass
of power, look at that. A large rudder that
helps this animal move through the environment and
also to quickly maneuver itself if it needs to escape
from a predator. Now, look at these flaps of skin that run along the
sides of the body here. They’re actually
able to absorb oxygen through those flaps, which helps
them to breathe underwater. As we know, they
also have lungs, actually it was just blowing
some bubbles up front there. – [Mark] So this animal
breathes through its skin. – It can. They of course, they have lungs, they do come to the surface
to get a big gulp of air, but they can stay submerged
for hours at a time, especially when the males
are defending the den. As we know, the males are
often times called den masters. They protect the eggs,
they protect the larva. – [Mark] So Coyote,
what does it feel like? – Like a big, wet,
muscular slinky. Go ahead, Mark,
reach down in there, get some water on
your hands first and just give it a little
pet, feel the skin. Very dense, right? – Oh wow. A lot than actually I imagined. I imagined it being
a lot slimier. It’s not that slimy. – Yeah, no. But they do secrete more mucus
if they’re feeling stressed. So it’s really good, you can see the animal’s completely
calm at this point, just keeping it in a
little bit of water helps keep it hydrated. Alright, well I
think we’ve collected all of the necessary data,
which means it is time for us to safely get this salamander
back into its enclosure. Alright. That never gets any easier. – [Mark] Salamander coming in. – Got him. – [Mark] Good good good. – Okay. This, alright, here we go. Alright, got him. There he is. Alright. Oh, he’s so slippery. You ready? – Yep.
– Okay. Alright, here he goes. Wow. That was cool. Okada Sensei, thank you so much for giving us the
chance to get up close with this national treasure. What an incredible day for
the Brave Wilderness crew and a true honor to work with
this salamander here in Japan. I’m Coyote Peterson,
be brave, stay wild. We’ll see you on
the next adventure. – [Mark] Nice!
– Yeah! – [Mark] High five! (laughs) – Alright, I’m getting
out of this cold water. – [Coyote Voiceover] Working
alongside Okada Sensei in the field and
getting hands-on with Japanese giant salamanders while visiting the
Hanzaki Institute was one of the most
meaningful experiences the Brave Wilderness
team and I have ever had. Approximately 41% of the
world’s amphibian species are threatened, and giant
salamanders are no exception. The significance this animal
holds in Japanese culture cannot be matched, and
it was a true honor that we as visitors
to this sacred land were entrusted with
telling these stories. Conservation efforts
for the giant salamander are imperative for its survival, and if you would like to help, make sure to visit
bushidojapan.com to ensure that there is a future
for these majestic animals. If you missed our
thrilling adventure into the mysterious world
of giant salamanders, make sure to go back and watch, as we got the slippery amphibian
up close for the cameras. And don’t forget, subscribe
and click the notification bell so you can join me and the crew
on our next wild adventure. – What’s very distinct
about this salamander as compared to the hellbender
is look at all these fleshy little
nodules on the head. We didn’t see that
with the hellbender. (wolf howling)

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