If it is lost, we are lost

The axolotl as it was called by the Aztecs, is an amphibian that can only be found in its original habitat — Xochimilco. The Aztecs believed this creature to be a god, the twin brother of their most important deity, the feathered serpent Quetzalcoatl. It can regenerate limbs and organs — even parts of its heart and brain — making it a valuable case study for scientists.

Studies have been done at the National Autonomous University of Mexico showing that in 1998 there were 6,000 axolotls per square kilometer in Xochimilco. By 2008 that figure had plummeted to 100. And in 2014 researchers found less than one per square kilometer.

The three main causes for the axolotl being at the brink of extinction are; urbanization, water pollution and the massive invasion of exotic predators. Fish like carp and tilapia were introduced by the Mexican government in the 1980's to help feed local communities, as a result these fish have taken over the biomass of these canals, deteriorating the land necessary for native species to thrive.

The legend of the axoltl states that when this creature is extinguished, the people will be extinguished with them. In order to save the axoltl the canals and chinampas of Xochimilco must also be saved. But returning this system to it’s natural state is not easy. Not only because of rapid urban expansion but because tradition is being lost. Very few of the younger generation are still interested in agriculture and the traditional ways of farming. Many are now more focused on using agro-chemicals, greenhouses and blocking out canals. So far, there have been no efforts to save the wild axolotl beyond a few outreach programs.

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