The natural history of the hellbender, an elusive giant salamander (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis), has never been the subject of a documentary film, notes naturedocumentaries.org. A short episode taken from the Freshwater Illustrated series, The Last Dragons tells the story of this flagship species, found in 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 this species, living in montane forested rivers and 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 mving rocks in river beds. Dislocating rocks to create swimming holes or simply throwing them for fun can have long lasting negative effects on these creatures who are very sensitive to changes in river bottoms.
The Last Dragons was filmed on location in Conesauga River, Georgia and Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina The short encourages river watching by snorkeling.