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OKAYAMA (Kyodo) Japan’s largest-known giant salamander has died at the hot spring resort of Yubara in Maniwa, Okayama Prefecture, where it was reputed to be over 100 years old, local officials have said.

The enormous amphibian, which had been on public display since 1971 at a giant salamander center in the town, probably died of old age, the officials said Friday.

The salamander had not been properly measured or weighed in the presence of experts, so estimates of its length range from a conservative 1.5 meters to as long as 1.7 meters. It was said to weigh as much as 60 kg, but experts doubt that.

Only several weeks ago, the salamander was given the name “Ryuu” in a ceremony attended by local elementary students, while at last weekend’s “hanzaki” (giant salamander) festival, an annual event in Maniwa, its immense size drew gasps from awed visitors.

Takeyoshi Tochimoto, who has studied giant salamanders for decades, said the timing of the death is unfortunate as there were plans to have it accurately measured during an annual meeting of giant salamander experts to be held Sept. 11-12 in Yubara.

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