The Lake Pátzcuaro Salamander | Mexico

The Lake Patzcuaro Salamander


The Lake Pátzcuaro salamander (Ambystoma dumerilii) is a highly endangered salamander species that is endemic only to Lake Pátzcuaro in Mexico. This lake is located at 1920 meters (6300 feet) above sea level in northwestern Mexico. The Lake Pátzcuaro salamander is one of the few neotenic species that leads an entirely aquatic life. It is estimated that worldwide there are only four such species.


Their distribution range is limited to only a single lake in Mexico at high altitude, which is not a protected area. This makes A. dumierilii one of the most endangered species of salamander. The area of Lake Pátzcuaro, which is inhabited by this species, covers less than 10 km² (3.8 mi²). The Lake Pátzcuaro salamander is unique in many ways. Large numbers have been removed from nature for human consumption and used in medicine. To this day, the salamander has been bred by a team of nons in the Basilica of Pátzcuaro for the production of cough sirup. In addition, the salamander is threatened by water pollution and invasive fish species. As a result, the survival of this highly specialized salamander is far from certain. Only 15% of the most endangered species of amphibians are protected in one way or another, although amphibians make up 41% of all endangered vertebrate species.


Turtle Island had the first assurance colony of Pátzcuaro salamanders outside of Mexico. They bred well and helped the survival of their species. Turtle Island has kept two breeding groups for several years and has donated several of the offspring to institutes, zoos, and private keepers. Dr. Gerardo Garcia from Chester Zoo has set up an EEP program (European breeding program) for the Pátzcuaro Salamander. This salamander is now bred in European zoos in close cooperation with Mexico to be sent back to their country of origin. 

Every single Pátzcuaro salamander in zoos are descendents from the breeding groups at Turtle Island.