Protecting Appalachia’s Hellbenders – The Last Dragons – Freshwater Illustrated (2014)

The Last Dragons is a part of a series from Freshwater Illustrated including A Deeper Creek: Watchable Waters of Appalachia and Hidden Rivers. The series were screened in EcoFocus Film Festival of Athens GA in 2014. Filmed on location in Conesauga River in Geargia and Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina by Freshwaters Illustrated this short episode focuses on monitoring and conservation efforts on highly endangered hellbenders (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis).

The natural history of these elusive giant salamanders has never been subject of a documentary film. Hellbenders are flagship species of healthy rivers in Southeastern North America. Today 90-80% of the original population have been lost. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists hellbenders as near-threatened status. Siltation is the biggest threat for hellbenders living in montane forested rivers and are only found in protected forests such as the Cherokee National Forest. The next biggest threat comes from recreational users of the rivers who damage hellbender habitats by moving rocks in river beds. Dislocating rocks to create swimming holes or simply throwing them for fun can have long lasting negative effects on hellbenders who are very sensitive to changes in river bottoms.

Alternative to such destructive recreational activities river watching by snorkeling is highly encouraged:

A Deeper Creek: Watchable Waters of Appalachia


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