Tourists warned over 'cruel' axolotl trend in Thailand

·Environment Editor
·2-min read

Travellers to South East Asia have been warned to avoid a cruel new trend alleged to be inspired by Minecraft, a popular computer game.

Axolotls are being brightly dyed using toxic colouring that leaves them dead within days and sold at a major market in Bangkok, Thailand.

Critically endangered in the wild, the amphibians, commonly known as Mexican walking fish, are a popular aquarium pet around the world.

Left - axolotls brightly dyed in a tub. Right - Minecraft axolotls.
Axolotls are believed to have been dyed to resemble brightly-coloured characters it Minecraft. Source: Supplied / Mojang Studios

While colouring animals, particularly day-old chicks, is not uncommon in the region, the axolotls are suspected to have been altered using dyes from printer cartridges.

Local media has linked their appearance to the axolotls in Minecraft, which features them in unusual colours including pink, brown, gold, cyan and blue.

Axolotl problem exposed after online tip-off

The issue was first exposed by the popular Axolotl Ville TH Facebook page, whose creator – an axolotl breeder – was tipped off by a concerned follower.

Three images of an axolotl. In a tank, from above and then dead.
One axolotl died within two days of being bought from the market. Source: Supplied

Speaking to Yahoo News Australia from Bangkok, Piva – whose sister-in-law runs the page – said the problem is not believed to be widespread, but he is concerned it could grow.

Together they have visited the market to investigate the issue, finding at least two stalls selling multi-coloured axolotls.

“They dye them bright colours to attract children, basically,” Piva said.

“The thing is these axolotls don’t last a long time. They last even less than a week.”

One animal documented by the duo died within two days of purchase. In captivity they can live for 10 to 20 years.

Animal welfare group horrified by multicoloured axolotls

Ben Pearson from non-profit World Animal Protection Australia said the issue highlights the suffering animals endure for the exotic pet trade.

He outlined concerns about both the dying practice and the cramped conditions the axolotls were being housed in.

Left - colourful axolotls in a tub. Right - colourful axolotls in a bowl
At least two sellers in Bangkok's largest market are selling the dyed axolotls. Source: Supplied

“Devastatingly, the chemicals which are being used to alter their skin colour is resulting in what is likely a week of suffering, leading ultimately in the death of these critically endangered animals,” he said.

“No wild animal can have its needs entirely met when kept as a pet.

“In a home, there is no way to replicate the space and freedom they would have in the wild.”

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