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Rescued Axolotls discover new dwelling at San Francisco Zoo

Axolotls (Photo courtesy San Francisco Zoo & Gardens)

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Five rescued Axolotls are now living at the San Francisco Zoo & Gardens and on exhibit in the Conservation Corridor.

The Axolotls were confiscated by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officers as they were being smuggled into the United States. The SF Zoo stepped up to provide a safe environment for the Axolotls and to educate the public about illegal wildlife trafficking.

“We have the right medical and animal teams in place to ensure they can thrive in their new environment,” said Dominick Dorsa, the zoo’s vice president of animal care.

“Axolotls, pronounced ACK-suh-LAH-tuhls, are unique looking salamanders, native to Mexico,” zoo officials wrote.

External gills resembling a feathery head piece add to the animals’ unique cuteness. “The Axolotl is the Peter Pan of salamanders. While most amphibians grow out of their aquatic phase to begin their lives on land, the axolotl largely retains its larval characteristics and spends its adult life in the water,” World Wildlife Fund wrote.

Demand for Axolotls as pets boomed as consumers were “drawn to their big eyes and smiling expression,” WWF wrote.

Axolotls were historically found in high-altitude lakes near Mexico City. Habitat destruction and pollution reduced the species to small areas around Lake Xochimilco. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, fewer than 100 adult axolotls are left in the wild.

Illegal smuggling fueled by the exotic animal trade also threatens the species. “Wildlife trafficking is a conservation crisis, with countless animals and plants being pushed toward extinction from the illegal harvest of and trade in live plants and animals,” San Francisco Zoo officials wrote.

The San Francisco Zoo & Gardens is officially recognized by the Wildlife Confiscations Network as meeting the expectations of providing a cooperative and coordinated response for the care and wellbeing of wildlife confiscated from illegal trade.

Zoo guests will have the opportunity to name two of the Axolotls on Saturday and Sunday, June 15 and 16.

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