Conservationist Extractivism Indigenous Land Relationships and Axolotl Endangerment in the Valley of Mexico

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Leila Shokat


For thousands of years the axolotl, a salamander native to the Valley of Mexico, has been an important food source for local populations. Axolotls were included in Aztec mythology, where they play a role in the cycle of life becoming food for other life. Since colonization, the axolotl population has been threatened by a shrinking habitat, pollution, and invasive species. Researchers have proposed the use of chinampas, a complex farming practice used by the Aztecs, to restore the environment to its previous state of health so axolotls may survive as a species. Conservationists have also outlawed the consumption of wild-caught axolotls, due to their status as an endangered species. Here, indigenous relationships to the land are adopted in a piecemeal fashion that uses
indigenous knowledge and cultivation practices but deprives indigenous peoples of their ability to live off the land, while framing axolotl conservation as vital for the maintenance of captive axolotl populations in laboratories worldwide. The use of local knowledge and rejection of local consumption practices makes room for a conservationist extractivism in which axolotl populations are revived only to be taken for biomedical research.

Keywords: Axolotl, Valley of Mexico, Conservation, Standard Environmental Narrative, Consumption

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How to Cite
Shokat, Leila. 2021. “Conservationist Extractivism”. Radicle: Reed Anthropology Review 5 (1).