A unique cast of people is racing to save the quirky salamander, but experts warn that what’s really needed is habitat restoration. In Mexico City’s trendy Roma neighbourhood, Monstruo de Agua’s patio hums with young people chatting over smoked avocado ceviche, tempura mushrooms, and craft beers. Each beer at the microbrewery bears a label with an image of the quirky axolotl, complete with its crown of feather-like gills. The brewery chose the critically endangered salamander as its mascot in the hopes of boosting awareness among the Mexican public, says founder Matías Vera-Cruz Dutrenit. “If our product is good, it can act as a good ambassador to the animal,” he says. Named after the Aztec god of fire and lightning, Xolotl, the axolotl has been an important symbol of Mexican culture for centuries. Monstruo del Agua means “water monster,” which is the Spanish translation of the word axolotl from Nahuatl, the language of the ancient Aztecs. Once widespread throughout the high-altitude lakes surrounding Mexico City, these foot-long amphibians are now limited to only a few inland canals near Lake Xochimilco, where only between 50 and a thousand survive. This precariously small population faces a barrage of threats: water pollution; predation by invasive carp and tilapia; and most significantly, habitat loss.