Ok, I’ve been e-mailed articles about axolotl extinction now by lots of friends and colleagues. First of all, thank you. It’s all over the news, with Yahoo, HuffPo and others trumpeting these poor salamanders’ fate. Apparently this is a major news story now when they appear to be extinct in the two lakes in Mexico that they come from, rather than for the last few decades that they have been in steady decline. I think that’s rather telling, sadly. No one seems to care when a species is inching steadily over the cliff of annihilation, but once they’re gone it’s worthy of print somehow. We need to get better about that guys, seriously.
Fortunately, there’s a silver lining here. Axolotls are not gone from the Earth, just from the remnants of Lake Xochimilco. As I said, this has been a long time coming and is not a sudden or surprising thing. Pollution from nearby Mexico City, as well as introduced tilapia fish have been factors for many years. But here’s the thing. Axolotls have been bred in captivity for laboratory research and the pet trade for many, many years. As a matter of fact, I have two of them in my living room right now.
They are not difficult to keep or breed either, so maybe someday when we get our collective act together we can reintroduce them to their natural habitat. Until then, it’s going to be a keeper of the flame type of situation. And think about this: If axolotls had not proven to be so easy, or so useful to sciences such as embryology, limb regeneration study, etc., they absolutely would have been wiped out. It makes one wonder how many species not seen as useful, or in fact, may be completely unknown to us, do slip away from us every year. An animal shouldn’t have to prove it’s worth to us in order to justify keeping it around.
So anyways, just so you guys all know, axolotls may be gone from Mexico, but they aren’t wiped out. Not yet. Let’s let this be a wakeup call. Amphibians as a whole are declining globally. We shouldn’t wait until they’re gone to read a crappy HuffPo article eulogizing them. There are lots of places out there willing to help. Here are some:
- PARC–Year of the Salamander
I will add to the list as I find more.