Endangered axolotl Juan, the surprise salamander, brings joy to wildlife experts

Juan the axolotl fish at the Great Yarmouth Sealife Centre. Photo: Jeremy Durkin

Juan the axolotl fish at the Great Yarmouth Sealife Centre. Photo: Jeremy Durkin - Credit: photo-features.co.uk

The birth of a rare creature has been the source of joy for wildlife experts in Great Yarmouth.

Shane Breadmore

Shane Breadmore - Credit: Archant

Eggs belonging to the endangered baby axolotl salamander were found by the team at the Great Yarmouth Sea Life Centre.

Aquarist Shane Breadmore said he was shocked when they found eggs in the axolotl tank.

He added: “In their normal habitat they are currently under severe threat.

“We have five axolotls and although breeding in captivity is important we encourage breeding naturally.

“We were delighted to find the unexpected eggs and got them into our animal care area as quickly as we could to give them the best chance of hatching.

“We were over the moon when a live axolotl baby, which we’ve christened Juan, popped out two weeks later.

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“As an aquarist I love all aquatic creatures and know I shouldn’t have favourites, but seeing Juan as a tiny baby really was one of the cutest things I have ever seen – axolotls are adorable anyway with their big eyes, and they constantly look like they’re smiling, so seeing a baby one was just incredible.

“Juan’s looks aren’t the only thing he has going for him. Axolotls are renowned for their uncanny powers of self–healing – in particular their ability to regenerate limbs – and have long been observed by scientists researching heart defects and organ transplants in humans.”

Often mistaken as fish because they are known as Mexican walking fish, axolotls are actually amphibians.

The Yarmouth salamander was named Juan, because the creatures hail from Mexico where the name is popular.

He was just half a centimetre when born and was kept in a special animal care unit and fed a protein–rich shrimp and blood worm diet until he reached 10 centimetres long.

At this size his parents would be less inclined to eat him, which often happens in the wild.

Despite being known for their powers of self–restoration, the future forecast for Juan’s cousins in the wild is bleak.

In 2010, axolotls were recognised as near extinct owing to pollution, the destruction of their habitat and the arrival of invasive fish species in their native waters.

Today, axolotls are classified as critically endangered and can be found on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) red list.