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Minecraft axolotls are causing pet craze in kids

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The RSPCA is warning parents not to buy axolotls for their children this Christmas, amid a “craze” fueled by the popular video game Minecraft.

The charity urges prospective owners of the exotic amphibians, which are native to Mexico, that they have “complex needs” and that providing appropriate care in a home environment is likely to be challenging.

There are now “signs of growing interest” in buying the animals, the RSPCA says, in part due to their addition in June this year to the hugely successful computer game Minecraft, in which players can create structures from resources and interact with animals – like axolotls – in an open environment with their friends.

The popularity of the animal in the game, which has 140 million active players worldwide, is evidenced by their frequent appearances in YouTube videos of popular Minecraft players, with several million views.

And the Mumsnet parenting forum is awash with discussions of pre-teens wanting the pets — or axolotl-themed ones — as gifts this winter.

But the RSPCA is now warning parents to “resist their children’s pleas for an axolotl — or any other exotic pet — this Christmas.”

The RSPCA urges prospective owners of axolotls, which are native to Mexico, that they have “complex needs” and that providing appropriate care in a home environment is likely to be challenging

Parenting forum Mumsnet is awash with discussions of pre-teens wanting the pets — or axolotl-themed — as gifts this winter

Parenting forum Mumsnet is awash with discussions of pre-teens wanting the pets — or axolotl-themed — as gifts this winter

THE ENDANGERED AMPHIBIANS WHO BECAME THIS YEAR’S BUZZ LIGHT YEAR

Axolotls are carnivorous pedomorphic salamanders that originally found in several lakes underlying Mexico City.

They live on average between 10 and 15 years in the wild, can grow up to 30 centimeters and are only found in the freshwaters of Lake Xochimilco and Lake Chalco in the Valley of Mexico.

Lake Chalco no longer exists, having been drained as a flood measure, and Lake Xochimilco now exists mainly as canals.

The axolotl is currently on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s annual Red List of Threatened Species.

Potential owners are warned that they are a huge bet, which a large tank with good water filtration and heating.

They need regular water changes, veterinary care if they become ill and someone to care for them during holidays and other times away.

They are atypical among amphibians because they reach adulthood without undergoing metamorphosis, remain in the water and gill instead of going to land as adults.

As of 2020, they are nearly extinct, partly due to the urbanization of Mexico City and subsequent water pollution.

Other factors include the introduction of invasive species such as the tilapia and the perch.

She are used extensively in scientific research for their ability to regenerate limbs, gills, and parts of their eyes and brains.

Axolotls have also been sold as food in Mexican markets and were a staple of the Aztec diet.

The charity wrote in a statement: “Unfortunately, many people are unaware of how much devotion axolotls and other exotic pets are when they adopt them.

“We believe that the decision to purchase one should not be taken lightly, as impulse purchases run the risk of animals suffering as people may not fully understand what it takes to properly care for them.”

A YouTube video by user “OMGcraft – Minecraft Tips & Tutorials” teaching viewers how to get a pet axolotl into the game has more than 1.3 million views.

Another video from user ‘GeorgeNotFound’ entitled ‘Minecraft, But My Friend Is An Axolotl’ has over 20 million views.

In a Mumsnet thread revealing what 10-year-olds were asking for this Christmas, parents said they’d been harassed into getting axolotls as pets.

One user wrote: ‘My (dear daughter), 11, has harassed me for an Axolotl.’

Another said: ‘My 10-year-old niece is also desperate for an axolotl. Must be the current case.’

A third wrote, “I have two people obsessed with Minecraft who also want an axolotl.”

RSPCA Senior Scientific Manager Dr. Ros Clubb said: ‘It is very challenging to care for exotic pets because they have the same environmental, nutritional and behavioral requirements as their relatives in the wild.

“We’re especially concerned when new pet trends like axolotls emerge, because exotic pets often end up in our care later when people realize they’re not easy to care for, or the novelty wears off.

“Playing with an axolotl in Minecraft is one thing, but taking care of a real live axolotl is quite another. These amphibians need care and attention throughout their lives, which could be up to fifteen years – long after the children may have fledged the nest.’

dr. Clubb added: ‘As well as investing in the right set-up, including a large tank with good water filtration and heating, they need regular water changes, veterinary care if they get sick and someone to look after them during holidays and other times away. It’s a big commitment. They shouldn’t be treated either, so will children still be interested months or years later?’

The RSPCA warns that the ‘axolotl/Minecraft phenomenon’ threatens to have similar consequences to previous media-related trends.

The popularity of the animal in the game, which has 140 million active players worldwide, is evidenced by their frequent appearances in YouTube videos of popular Minecraft players, with several million views

The popularity of the animal in the game, which has 140 million active players worldwide, is evidenced by their frequent appearances in YouTube videos of popular Minecraft players, with several million views

WHAT IS MINECRAFT?

Minecraft was created in 2009. At the beginning of the game, a player is placed in a ‘nearly infinite game world’.

They can then walk over a variety of terrains, including mountains, forests, and caves.

Players can also fly in the air for panoramic views of the landscape.

Players are given blocks and tools to build towns and cities.

As a player progresses, they can earn advanced tools and building blocks in different materials.

The game was initially made for PC, but Xbox 360 and mobile versions are now available.

Players can now step into virtual reality, with the game launching for the Oculus Rift.

“For example, after the publication of the Compare the Market ad in 2009, meerkat calls to our cruelty and advice line rose 184% the following year,” the charity said.

Similarly, there was an increase in the trade in terrapins after the release of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie and there has been an increase in the trade in iguanas after the release of Jurassic Park and clownfish after the movie Finding Nemo came out.

“The axolotl phenomenon underscores some of the issues highlighted in a recent report on exotic pets published jointly by us and Born Free, which argues that current laws are inadequate and need urgent revision.”

dr. Clubb added: “Exotic pets should never be an impulse purchase. Potential owners should ensure that they can provide their animal with the environment it needs and that they have the facilities, time, financial resources and long-term commitment to maintain a good standard of care.”

She continued: ‘We encourage potential owners to read books written by experts on the specific species they want to keep and to join member associations where there are experienced keepers who can help when they are struggling. Specialist vets are also an excellent source of support and advice for owners.”

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