Giant salamander said to be more than 200 years old discovered in China

A Chinese giant salamander measuring 1.4m and 52kg has recently been found in the wild in south-western China, reported Chinese media, which cited experts as saying the endangered amphibian could be more than 200 years old.

The animal was discovered in a cave in Chongqing municipality and has been transferred to an official facility for "protection" and further study, China Central Television (CCTV) said in a posting on its Weibo account on Dec 11.

It added that experts estimated that the creature was more than 200 years old.

Chinese giant salamander, which is said to have been in existence for more than 170 million years, is known for moving slowly and easy to hunt. It is also marked by the high-pitched voice it makes, giving it the nickname wa wa yu, or baby fish, in Chinese.

It is critically endangered in China, having been hunted relentlessly for decades for its meat and perceived medicinal properties.

A report by China Daily in November said 80 per cent of the species has been wiped out in recent decades, leaving fewer than 50,000 of them in the wild, although precise information is scarce.

The animal is now listed as a Class II Protected Species by the Chinese government, but consumption of salamander bred in captivity is legal and can set one back by as much as US$300 (S$422) per kilogram.

In January, senior public security officials were caught enjoying salamander and other delicacies at a lavish meal in the southern city of Shenzhen.

In September, another southern Chinese city, Zhangjiajie, held a three-day festival to promote giant salamander cuisine and products, China Daily reported. City officials claimed that the meat was legit and said the festival would become an annual event to promote salamander-based tourism.