Growing up to a foot long (30 cm) and known as the “water monster” or the “Mexican walking fish”, its only natural habitat is the Xochimilco network of lakes and canals, which are suffering from pollution and urban sprawl.
Biologist Armando Tovar Garza, of Mexico’s National Autonomous University, described an attempt last year by researchers to try to net axolotls in the shallow, muddy waters of Xochimilco as “four months of sampling zero axolotls”.
Some axolotls still survive in aquariums, water tanks and research labs, but experts said those conditions were not ideal because of interbreeding and other risks.
Axolotls use four stubby legs to drag themselves along the bottom or thick tails to swim in Xochimilco’s murky channels while feeding on aquatic insects, small fish and crustaceans. But the surrounding garden islands have increasingly been converted to illicit shantytowns, with untreated sewage often running off into the water.
POCHO knows where they can be found, however.
In Japan, axolotls are what’s for dinner!