By Staff Writer ( | First Posted: Dec 17, 2015 06:26 AM EST

A black alpine salamander (Salamandra atra) walks across moss on a hillside leading to the Falzthurntal valley on August 10, 2015 near Pertisau, Austria. (Photo : Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

A giant salamander, which is reported to be two centuries old, was discovered alive in a cave outside the city of Chongqing in Southwest China.

The rare amphibian was found by a fisherman under a rock. National Geographic cited that a fisherman found the animal, who thought that it was ill, and contacted the authorities. The salamander was captured and moved to a facility “for protection and further study.”

SFGate reported that the giant salamander weighed 114 pounds (53 kilograms) and was over 4.5 feet (1.4 meters) long. The animal is known as an Andrias davidianus, which is considered as the largest amphibian on Earth. Others of the same species are over 6 feet long, but quite rare. The species is also known to live for 200 years, although those kept in captivity usually live only up to half a century. The recently discovered salamander will be transferred to a zoo enclosure. Although other reports claim that the animal is 200 years old, National Geographic stated that it may be much younger.

Discovery News also noted that the biggest amphibian in the world moves slow, has poor eyesight and nocturnal. It generally thrives in streams, lakes and mountains areas in China. However, pollution, hunters and enthusiasts of exotic dishes and therapies are proving to be a threat to its survival. Its natural habitat is continually endangered by waste and pollutants.

The amphibian is critically endangered, with its population dropping by 80 percent in a span of 50 years, Washington Post wrote. There are plenty of causes for their diminishing numbers, such as poachers who hunt them using electrofishing, insecticides and explosives, as well as the Chinese who kill them to make exotic medicines and therapeutic products. Salamanders are also known as a Chinese delicacy, with many believing that it provides a variety of health benefits such as improving skin health and boosting libido.

Based on the huge drop in its population in the past 50 years, there is a huge possibility that the giant Chinese salamander will become fully extinct in the next half century; unless experts and scientists work to protect it. Despite being able to live up to 200 years, the remaining ones may most likely have to be kept in research facilities and zoo enclosure to ensure their survival even if it cuts their lifespan significantly.

In the meantime, the recently discovered animal will be safe as experts try to learn more about the species. More updates and details are expected soon.

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