More people want axolotls since the salamander was added to Minecraft: NPR

ADVERTISEMENT

More people want axolotls since the salamander was added to Minecraft: NPR

Lately, more and more people have kept axolotls as pets.

Robert Michael/AFP via Getty Images


hide title

toggle title

Robert Michael/AFP via Getty Images


Lately, more and more people have kept axolotls as pets.

Robert Michael/AFP via Getty Images

the axolotlWith its permanent smile and youthful-looking body, it has conquered hearts thanks to TikTok and the popular Minecraft video game, which incorporated the salamander into its universe in 2021. More and more people have acquired them as pets.

“I would attribute about 90% of the popularity of axolotls to Minecraft and TikTok, but mostly Minecraft,” Jake Pak told NPR via email.

He says that almost all the children who come to Planet Axolotlthe breeding and sanctuary company he co-owns, is there to see one in real life after learning about them in-game.

Kids often ask for the blue ones, which are the rarest in Minecraft, and are disappointed to find out that it’s genetically impossible for the animal to be blue.

Eric Rasmussen, Owner The world of wet pets in Portland, Oregon, says the store has sold axolotls for many years. It’s only been in the last few months that he’s seen people’s interest in them soar.

“I mean, this year is pretty much the year that we can’t keep them in stock,” he told NPR by phone. “And because the demand is so high, the value of the damn little things has skyrocketed.”

He estimates they cost about twice as much as last year, and expects prices to rise, especially since they have now become designer animals, some with a modified protein that makes them glow fluorescently under a blue light.

Customers who accidentally breed them have been Seattle’s most reliable source of axolotls. the fish shop, according to employee Cory Giess. He told NPR that the store has had trouble getting them from breeders and that most of the current stock comes from a customer who accidentally bought two of the opposite sex.

Pak explains that there can be risks when a client raises axolotls, whether they try or not.

One concern is inbreeding. If someone doesn’t know their animals’ bloodlines, there’s a “very high probability” that the offspring could carry fatal recessive genes, Pak explained. Right now, he said, eyeless axolotls are showing up in the industry as a result of inbreeding.

There is also the commitment it takes to care for these animals.

“Axolotls can lay over 1,000 eggs at a time, and if you don’t have the space, time and knowledge to care for the babies, chances are they’ll all die prematurely or, as we’re seeing with New Zealand, creating an abandoned axolotl crisis,” Pak said.

In New Zealand, axolotl owners have been turning the creatures over in droves to pet shelters. In a Facebook message to NPR, the pet store Scales, feathers, fins and fur in Dunedin said he has about 2,000 of them in his care.

In an email to NPR, Blue Ridge Reptile Rescue (which sometimes cares about amphibians, too) said it can be quite difficult to breed amphibians “by accident.”

“Getting eggs by accident, sure, but they require special care for hatching, and you have to raise and maintain special food for the hatchlings. No one does this by accident,” he said.

Some owners may be taking these steps without realizing the consequences of hatching hundreds of baby axolotls, and the rescue fears that people may be breeding them with the intention of selling them for easy money and then keeping them for themselves.

Giess urges customers to bring unwanted animals to a pet store or sanctuary rather than release them into the wild. Even animals as seemingly harmless as an axolotl can potentially wreak havoc on an ecosystem.

“In California, it’s actually illegal to buy or sell them,” he explained. “Because if someone gets tired of theirs and sets it loose, there’s a non-zero chance that axolotls could breed with local endangered salamander species, and that’s a really big issue for anyone trying to keep those species alive.” .

Before you go full throttle to adopt a pampering axolotl, experts at pet stores, rescues, and breeders recommend educating yourself on how to responsibly care for the lovable animals.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT