Ecologists from Mexico’s National Autonomous University launched a fundraiser to strengthen conservation initiatives for axolotls, a salamander species facing endangerment.
Adopt A Cute Fish, The Axolotl!
The initiative, named “Adoptaxolotl,” appeals to individuals to contribute as little as 600 pesos (about $35) to virtually adopt one of these diminutive “water monsters.”
Virtual adoption provides regular updates on the axolotl’s well-being, or donors can opt for a virtual dinner for one of these creatures.
In their primary habitat, the population density of Mexican axolotls (pronounced ah-ho-LOH’-tulz) has plunged by 99.5% in less than two decades, as highlighted by the scientists organizing the fundraiser.
Last year’s Adoptaxolotl campaign collected over 450,000 pesos ($26,300), directed towards an experimental captive breeding program and initiatives to revive the habitat in the ancient Aztec canals of Xochimilco, a southern district of Mexico City.
Currently, resources are insufficient for comprehensive research, says Alejandro Calzada, an ecologist leading a team researching lesser-known axolotl species for the government’s environmental department.
Calzada emphasizes the need for extensive monitoring, stating that the current efforts are inadequate for both Mexico City and the entire country.
Despite the recent surge in popularity, nearly all 18 species of axolotls in Mexico remain critically endangered, facing threats from escalating water pollution, a lethal amphibian fungus, and non-native rainbow trout.
Previously, scientists could locate an average of 6,000 axolotls per square kilometer in Mexico, but the latest census from the National Autonomous University reveals a drastic decline to just 36.
An international study suggests that there are now fewer than a thousand Mexican axolotls remaining in the wild.
Lack of data on the number and distribution of axolotl species hinders efforts to determine their remaining time and allocate available resources effectively.
Axolotls have become a cultural icon in Mexico, renowned for their unique and somewhat slimy appearance, along with their remarkable ability to regenerate limbs. Beyond their cultural significance, scientists worldwide view their regenerative abilities as potential keys to tissue repair and even cancer recovery.
Historically, government conservation efforts have primarily concentrated on the Mexican axolotl in Xochimilco. However, various species are scattered across the country, facing threats such as water quality deterioration due to Mexico City’s urbanization and the displacement of axolotls by rainbow trout in lakes near the capital.
Calzada’s team, dependent on donations and volunteers, faces challenges, exacerbated by an 11% funding cut for Mexico’s environment department.
Analysis of Mexico’s 2024 budget indicates a 35% reduction in funding compared to the previous administration over the six-year term of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
This article is dedicated to my nephew and niece because of their love for animals, especially the Axolotl.