Ambystoma Mexicanum IUCN Red List status: Critically endangered
Species name: Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum), more commonly known as the “water monster” and “Mexican walking fish.” These strange salamanders never undergo metamorphosis and stay in a larval form their entire lives. In early 2009 scientists reported that the population of one of the world’s most bizarre creatures has dropped by 90 percent over the previous four years. Flash forward four more years and it now appears that Mexico’s “water monster” is approaching extinction in the wild.
A recent study found no evidence that the axolotl still exists in its sole habitat, a 10-square-mile region outside of Mexico City. Another survey is scheduled to begin later this month in hopes that the axolotl can still be found. The scientists say it is premature to declare extinction, but things definitely aren’t good.
The reason Axolotl’s are now facing extinction in the wild is largely due to the rapid development of Mexico City. The city has tapped much of the water supply in the Xochimilco region, reducing the water supply available to the axolotl. Much of the region has been converted in shantytowns, and the resultant raw sewage has poisoned the remaining water. The species also faces threats from introduced species.
Is there any hope ?
There are some notable conservation efforts being done. Even if the axolotl is extinct in the wild, it isn’t gone quite yet. Quite a few of the amphibians live on in the pet trade, while some labs hold small collections so researchers can study the animals’ ability to regenerate lost limbs. Several zoos, including Toronto Zoo and Chapultepec Zoo, have been working to preserve the species and its habitat.