May 21, 2024 - World

Endangered salamander hit hard by Mexico drought

a streaming salamander is shown on brown rocks. The salamander is a dark grey, ashy type color with a few spots.

A stream salamander. Photo: Courtesy of Felipe Osuna López

The worsening drought in Mexico has increased the danger that an axolotl species could soon go extinct.

Why it matters: Also called the axolote or ajolote, the amphibian was considered a god by the Aztecs and has long fascinated scientists in part because it is capable of regrowing limbs.

  • Freshwater lakes and rivers in Mexico are the only natural habitat of several species of the axolotl.

State of play: Some axolotl species are down to fewer than 200 survivors.

  • That's the case with the stream salamander or ajolote de los volcanes, which live only in two streams in Mexico State, where water levels have been consistently dropping this year.

Driving the news: The Río Frío conservation group is looking to raise 65,000 pesos (around $3,900) to temporarily relocate the salamanders and better monitor when their habitat is in danger.

  • Last year, ecologists at the National Autonomous University of Mexico launched the AdoptAxolotl campaign, inviting people to sponsor conservation and recovery in the Xochimilco river.
  • People can make one-time or long-term donations to "take an axolotl to dinner" (for about $12) or to "pimp an axolotl house" (at around $60).

What they're saying: "There's just no rain, and it's a massive danger to the ajolotes … we're all struggling with the lack of water, but it is being especially impactful for them," Leonidas Otlica Reyes, a member of the Grupo de Conservación Río Frío, told Noticias Telemundo last week.

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