FIRST AIRED: November 20, 2018

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>> They are slimy, slippery and weird-looking. And these axolotl salamanders with their strange external gills, are a biological marvel with a mind-boggling ability to regrow damaged limbs and regenerate tissues in their spinal cord, heart and even brain. But they have all but disappeared from their native habitat, the muddy canals of a rapidly expanding Mexico City.
Reuters correspondent David Alire Garcia is there.>> Mexico City is of course one of the world's biggest mega cities. Its population is more than 20 million people, and that's actually part of the problem that faces the axolotl salamander. As the city has grown, its population has tripled in the last 100 years.
The native habitat of this amazing salamander has shrunk dramatically.>> Decades of dirty water and pollution, the introduction of ravenous non-native fish and the steady encroachment of Mexico City have left this tiny amphibian on the brink of extinction. One scientific model predicting the species could be gone as soon as 2020.
That would be an immense loss for scientists who have been researching Axolotl salamanders since the 1800s. Any efforts to apply their miraculous gift of regeneration to human health could come to a halt if the wild population is wiped out. Despite the grim prospects for the axolotl salamander, all is not yet lost.
A group of Mexican biologists have been scrambling to revive the species, working to forge an alliance with farmers who grow produce in the canals at the southern tip of Mexico City on floating gardens known as Chinampas where axolotl salamanders thrive.