Carolyn Jess is an 11 year old student who has agreed to be our special guest blogger about wildlife conservation. We first met Carolyn in October 2011 when she came out to the Zoo to meet our special guest Jack Hannah, who was visiting the Zoo to speak at our Conservation Gala. If you would like to contact Carolyn or have comments, you may send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Texas Blind Salamander
The Texas blind salamander is a very interesting looking creature. He is five inches long, is whitish-pink in color, and has two leaf like red gills behind where his ears should be to help get oxygen while in the water. The salamanders’ eyes are under the skin – you can faintly see black dots where the eyes should be.
I first learned about the Texas blind salamander by reading an article about it in the Texas Parks and Wildlifemagazine. The picture of the salamander is what caught my attention! He was so strange looking that I wanted to learn more about him. I learned that the Texas blind salamander lives only in the water filled caves of the Edwards Aquifer near San Marcos, Texas. He can’t see to eat so he moves his head from side to side to find shrimp, small snails, and other invertebrates (animals without backbones) at the bottom of the cave. The salamander is endangered because the fresh water in the caves is being overused and polluted – and the recent drought does not help either. The total adult population size is unknown but the species is believed to be rare with the need for continued monitoring
I wanted to help this animal. I searched on the internet and found lots of information. I clicked on different links and found out the same thing over and over – it is endangered. Then I found something interesting: there was research going on to help the blind salamander!! Dr. Glenn Longley, director of Edwards Aquifer Research and Data Center at Texas State University was working on ways to protect this species. Then an idea hit me like a bolt of lightning: I needed to get the word out about the Texas Blind Salamander and collect some donations to help with the research!
The real work was just beginning. How would I go about collecting money? I don’t get an allowance and I do jobs around my neighborhood, but that wouldn’t be enough. After some thinking, I decided that I would use my next birthday party as a way for raising funds. I would ask for money for the salamander instead of getting presents and I would teach everyone at my party about the salamander and what they could do to help. I contacted Dr. Longley and he set up an account for my money at the research center. My cause was put on the Edwards Aquifer website – which apparently A LOT of people in San Marcos read. Soon, money was coming to me from all over the state of Texas! My city’s newspaper did an article on me and then even more money came in.
I sent informational flyers in my birthday invitations and asked my guest for money for the salamander instead of gifts. At my party, I talked to my friends about what they could do to help the Texas Blind Salamander. Overall, I collected $600 for the research of the salamander and to help educate the public about ways they could help.
The future of the Texas Blind Salamander is still unclear. If we conserve our water and help prevent water pollution, the salamander has a fighting chance. Here are some things you can do to help this interesting creature:
- Fix any leaky faucet in your home.
- Turn off the water while you brush your teeth!
- If you must water your lawn, do it either early in the morning or at dusk. That way the water isn’t being evaporated by the sun.
- Install faucets or appliances that use less water.
- Prevent water pollution – recycle and put your trash where it belongs!
For more information about the Texas Blind Salamander, you can read Ray Dixon’s book, Amphibians and Reptiles of Texas (W.L. Moody Jr. Natural History Series). It has some great information for you!