Axolotls: an animal welfare charity concerned about the popularity of endangered amphibians

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Have you ever seen an axolotl? They are sometimes pink in color with frilly gills branching out like a feather scarf and a face that looks like a smile.

You may be familiar with the little creatures from their appearances in games such as Minecraft and Roblox.

But it is feared that the growing popularity of axolotls – which are a type of small salamander – in games means they have also become popular as pets in real life.

The RSPCA – an animal welfare charity – told Newsround it is concerned about axolotls being kept as pets because they are difficult to care for, and some owners will not be able to to take good care of the animal.

Dr Ros Clubb, from the RSPCA, said: “There have been signs of growing interest in buying axolotls as pets, which could be linked to the popular Minecraft and Roblox video games featuring these salamanders.

“There are a lot of young axolotls and their eggs being advertised for sale online, so we are concerned that they will become more popular with children.

“They are not easy pets to keep and buying a pet should never be an impulse purchase.

“Caring for exotic pets is very difficult because they have the same environmental, dietary and behavioral requirements as their wild relatives.”

axolotl-minecraftMojang

The axolotl was revealed as one of the new mobs on Minecraft this summer

These amphibians need lifelong care and attention, which can last up to 15 years.

Dr. Ros Clubb, RSPCA Chief Scientific Officer

Added to Minecraft as part of a updated last summer, axolotls are one of the cutest and most popular creatures in the game.

They are rare to find and spawn in caves and caverns in the game. And, just like the real salamander, they need water to survive.

Dr Cubb added: “The RSPCA is particularly concerned about the emergence of new pet trends, as exotic pets often end up in our care later on when people realize they are not easy to maintain.

“These amphibians need lifelong care and attention, which can last up to 15 years. In addition to a proper facility, including a large tank with good water filtration and heating, they need regular water changes, vet care if they get sick, and someone to look after them on holidays and other times—it’s a big commitment.

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aerial view of Xochimilco canals in Mexico City.Getty Images

Only a few axolotls remain in the wild and live in channels like this near Lake Xochimilco in Mexico City

An estimated one million axolotls are owned by humans worldwide, including in aquariums and laboratories where scientists study them for their ability to regrow limbs (arms or legs).

But despite their popularity in captivity, they are critically endangered in their home country of Mexico.

Named after the Aztec god of fire and lightning, Xolotl, the axolotl has been an important symbol of Mexican culture for centuries.

But the animal is now restricted to a few canals near Lake Xochimilco in Mexico City, where less than a thousand are thought to live in the wild.

The creatures have become endangered due to water pollution and habitat loss as humans expand the city.

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