Mexico’s “water monster”, the axolotl, has apparently vanished from its natural habitat. The creature is known for its strange looks, featuring a slimy tail, gills that look more like feathers, and a crooked half smile. Also called the “Mexican walking fish”, Mexico’s water monster has only been known to be found in the Xochimilco lakes in and around Mexico City.
Legendary monsters are common in almost every culture. Americans have “Bigfoot”, the Scottish have the Loch Ness water monster, and Spain recently discovered it had a monster squid patrolling the surrounding waters. Mexico’s water monster is not really a monster at all. The axolotl is a rather small creature, rarely do adult males get larger than a foot long. They look very much like a fish, even though they are an amphibian. In 2010, it was reported that there were most likely less than 1,200 axolotl still in existence in the wild. They are listed as critically endangered.
Biologist Luis Zambrano of Mexico’s National Autonomous University led a recent three month search for Mexico’s water monster. The search turned up absolutely zero axolotl. It was a very disheartening experience for the biologist and his team. Armando Tovar Garza, also from the National Autonomous University, said the salamander like creature is in serious danger of vanishing for good from the wild.
Mexico’s water monster used to fill the Xochimilco lakes. Estimates put the population at one time in the millions. The Aztec legend behind the creature stems from the dog-headed god, Xolotl. Xolotl was the fearsome god of death, lightning, and of course all monstrosities. He was also considered the keeper of the sun at night and was believed to be able to deliver fire from the underworld. At some point, the myth was that he became afraid of the other gods who wanted to kill him. So he turned himself into the axolotl.
The fish like salamander flourished until the Spanish conquered the area. They began to drain the lakes and canals, which led to a drop in the axolotl population. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, African tilapia and Asian carp were introduced into the ecosystem in an attempt to create fish farms. Unfortunately, the predatory fish began to attack the eggs of Mexico’s water monster. As Mexico City continues to grow and expand, the lakes and canals are falling victim to pollution and waste.
With a vanishing axolotl population in the wild, pet owners are thought to be the only remaining keepers of the mythical creature. The time may have already come where the only way to see Mexico’s water monster is in captivity.