Although there are many captive axolotl, the re-introduction of captive-bred axolotls is not recommended until threats, disease, and genetic risks can be mitigated.

As a result of the ease of availability of captive populations, there is considerable interest in restocking Lake Xochimilco with axolotls. This is seen as a way of preserving the species within what remains of the little-studied habitat that provided the unique conditions in which its remarkable biology first evolved, and where the key to understanding this biology may lie.

There are, however, several problems associated with such releases. At the very least, the threats to the species need to be neutralized, and potential disease and genetic problems addressed before captive animals are put back into the wild. The introduction of a disease or abnormal genes from a captive bred population could wipe out the remaining wild stock, so, any such introduction has to be conducted with extreme caution. Existing colonies also need to be analysed and compared to wild-caught specimens and Ambystoma tigrinum in order to determine their genetic status. Moreover, the population that does still exist, may well be so fragmented that each subpopulation has become genetically distinct.

The provision of disease-free, pure-bred axolotls and monitoring of the health status of captive and wild populations are key components of any program for the recovery and conservation of the wild population. Furthermore, even if a restocking program were to succeed, the question of whether a sustainable harvest could be made to meet local demands for the species is also likely to arise.

Sources: (Griffiths, Bride, et al., 2004; Griffiths, Graue, et al. 2004; Zambrano, et al., 2010)
Image: Henry Mühlpfordt



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