Axolotl are Endangered Salamanders Native to Mexico

by Duane Nichols on December 1, 2023

A critically endangered axolotl. Paul Starosta / Stone / Getty Images

Axolotl Conservation Campaign Promotes ‘Virtual Adoptions’ for Holiday Gifts

From an Article by Paige Bennett, EcoWatch News, November 28, 2023

On the hunt for the perfect holiday gift for someone special in your life? A campaign from the National Autonomous University in Mexico suggests adopting an axolotl — symbolically, that is.

The axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) is a critically endangered type of salamander that has become increasingly popular in recent years thanks to attention from a video game, Minecraft, as well as social media. While keeping axolotl as pets is illegal in some states and other parts of the world, the axolotl digital adoption campaign is encouraging people to invest in their virtual adoption to boost conservation efforts.

Adoption prices range from $10 to $5,393. Participants can purchase a meal for an axolotl; adopt an axolotl for one, six, or 12 months; contribute to building an axolotl shelter; or adopt a chinampa refuge, or artificial island, for one, six, or 12 months. In exchange for their contribution, supporters receive a digital kit of information and proof of virtual adoption.

The axolotl adoption campaign launched last year, and it brought in about $30,000, NPR reported. But Luis Zambrano, an ecologist at the National Autonomous University, said they need to raise about 10 times as much to restore axolotl populations to healthier, more stable numbers in the wild.

“We know what to do. We know where to do it. And we know that if we do that in those places, we will have a healthy population of axolotls,” Zambrano told NPR. “But if society doesn’t care too much, it doesn’t matter what we know. It will go extinct.”

National Autonomous University will use funds raised through the campaign for habitat rehabilitation for the axolotls, further wildlife conservation projects and to boost the use of chinampas in agriculture.

Chinampas were first established by the Aztecs, Inside Climate News reported. They are an important habitat for axolotls, and chinampera agricultural practices do not rely on fertilizers or pesticides. This form of farming can lead to better water quality, which creates a safer environment for the axolotls and other wildlife.

Over the past two decades, axolotl numbers in their native, wild habitat have declined by 99.5%, The Associated Press reported. The number of axolotls in captivity has rapidly increased, as more and more people buy the animals as pets. But in a 2019 assessment, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimated the number of mature axolotls in the wild to be just 50 to 1,000 individuals.

Axolotl live in wetlands, but their sharp decline is because of multiple threats to their habitat. Urbanization and pollution are top risks to axolotl habitats, but these amphibians are also vulnerable to non-native species, diseases, hunting and overfishing.


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