Chinese Fire Bellied Newt

Cynops orientalis

The Chinese fire bellied newt (Cynops orientalis) is a small (2–4 inches long) semi-aquatic black salamander with a bright orange belly. The bright color is believed to warn potential predators of the salamander’s toxicity. The Chinese fire bellied newt is widely distributed in southern China, where it is abundant in ponds and streams. They feed on live small invertebrates such as bloodworms, earthworms, water fleas (Daphnia), adult brine shrimp, blackworms, tubifex, and mosquito larvae.

Chinese fire bellied newts are commonly sold in pet stores, where they are easily confused with the similar Japanese fire bellied newt (Cynops pyrrhogaster). Japanese fire bellied newts typically have smoother skin and rounder tails. Most fire bellied newts in the pet trade are wild-caught and have an average lifespan of 10 to 20 years.

Did You Know?

The bright orange belly on this amphibian is believed to warn potential predators of the salamander’s toxicity.

Sustainability

Does the harvest for wildlife trade or captive breeding of this species harm wild populations?

Little Cause for Concern

The Chinese fire bellied newt is listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an organization that tracks the status of wildlife populations, as a species of Least Concern due to its wide distribution, tolerance of a broad range of habitats, and presumed large and stable population.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

When purchasing a Chinese fire bellied newt, ask if the animal was captive-bred from domesticated animals. Only acquire a pet that is from a reputable breeder or dealer to ensure that you are not buying an illegally wild-caught and/or imported animal.

Invasion Threat

Does the release or escape of this species into the wild harm the environment and/or economy?

Little Cause for Concern

The Chinese fire bellied newt is not known to be invasive. The species is slow to mature and therefore unlikely to become invasive in the U.S.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Before obtaining any non-traditional pet, check that it is legal to own one in your state of residence and check for permitting requirements. Only acquire a pet that is from a reputable breeder or dealer to ensure that you are not buying an illegally imported or wild-caught animal. Always keep your pet inside a safe and secure enclosure. Never release a pet into the wild.

Ease of Care

Does harvest, captive breeding, transport, or being kept as a pet harm individual animals?

Little Cause for Concern

Ease of care of many non-traditional pets depends on the individual owner’s years of experience and knowledge caring for a particular species. For the purposes of this website, we have geared information toward the benefit of the beginner.

Fire bellied newts appear to tolerate captivity with minimal stress if cared for properly. They require a partially aquatic environment and a specific temperature range that is not too high. They should not be kept with other species.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Before acquiring a pet fire bellied newt, research its specific care requirements. Talk to your veterinarian about the proper diet and how to maintain a healthy pet.

Health Threat

Does this animal pose a health risk to native wildlife, humans, livestock and agriculture?

Little Cause for Concern

Chinese fire bellied newts are mildly poisonous. They excrete toxins, primarily tetrodotoxins, through the skin that pose a medically significant threat if consumed in large quantities. These toxins are usually not harmful to humans and household pets unless the entire newt is swallowed. Always wash hands before and after contact with these or any amphibian to reduce the risk of transferring toxins or disease to and from the animal.

Like most amphibians, Chinese fire bellied newts can carry Salmonella. If transmitted to humans, Salmonella can cause vomiting and diarrhea; these symptoms are often mild in healthy adults but can be fatal to young children and the elderly, or anyone with a compromised immune system. It is therefore important to wash hands before and after handling these animals; however, surfaces may also become contaminated. Thus Salmonella can be transmitted from exotic pets to any member of a household, even those who do not handle the pet directly.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Before acquiring a pet fire bellied newt, ask for a list of any medical treatments the animal has received. Always wash hands before and after contact with any amphibian.

EcoHealth Alliance works at the intersection of ecosystem, animal and human health through local conservation programs and develops global health solutions to emerging diseases.
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