On Friday, ecologists at Mexico’s National Autonomous University started a new fundraising campaign with the goal of bolstering conservation efforts for axolotls, which are a local species of salamander that resemble fish and are in risk of extinction.
Adoptaxolotl is the name of the campaign that allows anybody to electronically adopt one of the small “water monsters” for as little as 600 pesos, which is around $35 United States dollars. Live updates on the health of your axolotl are included with the adoption of a virtual pet. Donors have the opportunity to purchase a virtual dinner for one of the creatures, which are recognized as being among the most popular pets in the United States.
In the primary habitat of Mexican axolotls, the population density has decreased by 99.5% in less than twenty years, according to the scientists who are behind the successful fundraising effort.
Just over 450,000 pesos, which is equivalent to $26,300, was raised through the Adoptaxolotl campaign in the previous year. This money was used to fund an experimental captive-breeding program as well as efforts to restore habitat in the old Aztec canals of Xochimilco, which is a borough located in the southern part of Mexico City.
Despite this, there are not sufficient resources for doing in-depth research, according to Alejandro Calzada, an ecologist working for the government’s environment department who is conducting surveys of less well-known species of axolotls.
Calzada, who is in charge of a group of nine researchers, stated that “we lack big monitoring of all the streams in Mexico City,” let alone any monitoring of the entire country overall. In light of the size of this area, it is insufficient.
Despite the fact that the creature has recently gained popularity, practically all 18 species of axolotls in Mexico are still considered to be in a state of critical endangered status. These species are threatened by the approaching water pollution, a lethal amphibian fungus, and rainbow trout that are not native to Mexico.
At one time, researchers were able to locate 6,000 axolotls average per square kilometer throughout Mexico; however, according to the most recent census conducted by the National Autonomous University, there are only 36 axolotls in the country. Less than one thousand Mexican axolotls were found to be living in the wild, according to a more recent international investigation.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Luis Zambrano González, one of the scientists at the institution who made the announcement about the fundraiser, stated that he is hoping to start a new census in March, which would be the first one since 2014.
In his statement, Zambrano stated, “There is no more time for Xochimilco.” “The invasion” of pollution poses a significant threat, as evidenced by soccer fields and floating dens. It is a pretty unfortunate situation.”
Because there is a lack of information regarding the quantity and distribution of the many species of axolotls in Mexico, it is difficult to determine how much longer the creatures have left to live and where to focus the resources that are available.
The statement that Calzada made was, “What I know is that we need to work urgently.”
The peculiar, slimy appearance of axolotls and their miraculous capacity to regrow limbs have contributed to their rise to prominence as a cultural symbol in Mexico. It is believed by researchers working in laboratories all around the world that this healing potential may hold the key to repairing damaged tissue and perhaps recovering from cancer.
Historically, the Mexican axolotl, which may be found in Xochimilco, has been the primary target of conservation efforts undertaken by the government since it is the most widely known species. However, there are other species that may be discovered all around the country, from the tiniest streams in the valley of Mexico to the desert at the northernmost part of Sonora.
The increasing urbanization of Mexico City has caused the water quality of the canals to deteriorate, and rainbow trout that have escaped from farms in the lakes surrounding the capital city have the potential to eat the food of axolotls which they have displaced.
Chytrid fungus is a skin-eating disease that is causing catastrophic amphibian die-offs from Europe to Australia, according to Calzada, who stated that his team was increasingly finding axolotls dead from the presence of the disease.
In spite of the fact that academics are dependent on donations and Calzada’s team relies on a group of volunteers, the Mexican government has just approved a reduction of 11% in funding for its environment department.
According to an estimate of Mexico’s 2024 budget, the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador would have provided the environment department of the country with 35% less money than its predecessor did over the course of its six-year term in office.